Tag Archives: Peter Molyneux

God, the sequel

Yup, it all started two days ago. I left you all with some impressions, yet the stage was larger. We cannot set omnipotence without foundation , well we can because I am here, but I am that one exception to the rule (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk). The others (Hades, Poseidon and Zeus) they grew their powers. We tend to make fun and call some settings ‘fabrications’, there we see “Zeus got the sky and air, Poseidon the waters, and Hades the world of the dead (the underworld)” The gods got a decent role in Homer’s illiad, and more wrote about them in all kinds of ways, yet when you dig down and dig to the past several people, people who had never had contact had similar writings. It is trivialised by people who have internet and mobile phones, yet in the old days they had no contact, in no way were groups of people with no levels of contact ever stating the same believes and adhering to the same rules. Perhaps there is something to be said in “he was appalled by human sacrifice and other signs of human decadence. He decided to wipe out mankind and flooded the world with the help of his brother Poseidon. After the flood, only Deucalion and Pyrrha remained” and it is not the only time, even the first time that floods were a larger stage of cleansing. So why? Consider that power grows and power is gotten from somewhere. If Aristaeus got his powers from bees, what happens if people abuse bees? A stage we might not consider, but in a stage where power was important, the abuse of sky (Zeus) and waters (Poseidon) would inflict the wrath of these two. That is the stage we seek!

If we can create a god (ourselves) it needs a power foundation, the smaller the creature, the more simplistic their needs, the easier their power is milked. Hence the 6 animals I gave two days ago. So when we get to “both nectar and ambrosia were kinds of honey, in which case their power of conferring immortality would be due to the supposed healing and cleansing powers of honey, and because fermented honey (mead) preceded wine as an entheogen in the Aegean world; on some Minoan seals, goddesses were represented with bee faces”, with this I personally reckon that the German Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (1845) was a lot closer to the truth with his view on it and it is important that any game has some handle on the past. Anchors in how power is distributed, how it is gained. If not, then Zeus, Poseidon and Hades could never have defeated Cronos, their father. 

Now consider the paths that Ezio Auditore and Bayek of Siwa undertook (two actual masterpieces), how they grew their powers and abilities. Would it be any different for deities? No matter how the had the ability to do so, they still needed to grow their powers, we all do and now we have a handle on us and on the character we play. Yet if we want something that is larger than life as such some sandbox trip is needed, choices are to be offered. Whether a person has the bee, the wasp or the termite. It starts with a foundation and that foundation grows towards a power base and a weakness, we all tend to look towards Athens for inspiration, but those who do tend to forget to look towards Poseidonia, a ‘village’ on Siros. When we see the elements shown we need to wonder how it was possible and there we have a setting towards the power base of a deity. If Ambrosia is food for the gods, or is it the food that creates gods? One might fuel the other. These thoughts are below the creation of a game, as we set the stage to a larger stage, we need to consider what gives foundation to that stage. A brilliant example is Horizon Zero Dawn, and soon its sequel. We chase in the first game what created the game, we see that there was a machine that creates larger than life events, but there is always a shoe in the cog (Hades). Any stage needs checks and balances or it becomes a fuelled stage of disbelief, even whilst you play it. That was the brilliance that led to Ezio Auditore, a stage we understood (historically speaking). As such, when you figure out that the events in Ancient Greece and ancient Iran (Mesopotamia) are not unrelated, how long until the cogs connect? 

As such we see can see out minds evolve the new god game, but is it a god game or forging a deity? There is a difference and even as the Atari ST, Playstation one, two and three needed us to make mental jumps, the Playstation 5 is now advanced enough to make us see the difference and play accordingly, the specifics are now in our grasp making for a much larger stage of handling evolution. And I reckon that over time cloud gaming will take it to the next level. And in all this Ubisoft was not alone, consider the path that the God of War took, and even he was not alone. It was a path and we forgot about that part in god gaming. We merely have the maker of the games (Peter Molyneux) and his examples Populous and Black and White as examples, but what if growth is a stage that encompasses both? Setting a different sandbox environment might be the way to go and we finally have hardware that can take us there. 

How it done? That is up to the game makers, you can’t expect me to do everything. You need to get creative and make the next stage of excellent gaming, because if we leave it up to Ubisoft it will be anyones guess what excellent gaming looks like and it will end up being below par and we have seen enough games like that. 

So get to work, get to the drawing board and consider the stage we play (entire Greece), what we can do short of everything and start considering what makes power grow. If you are done with that hold it against the deities of Egypt, Aztec and Inca deities and see how you hold up. You see checks and balances is where it is at. That is what makes people choose and it will make them come back for a second and third time. A game played three times over, that is the stage of a legendary game in the making.

Hesiod

As such in this story I left two clues. They were Deucalion and Pyrrha. Why were only those two spared? If you look at the historic writings (Homer, Hesiod, Ovid, Apollodorus) some things add up and some do not. Now, we can allow for creative views and that would be OK, yet Homer (Ionia, 900 BC), Hesiod (Cyme, 725 BC), Ovid (Sulmona, 43 BC) and Apollodorus (Athens, 180 BC). People that can never have been connected in time, also consider that with our options of preservation, we do not have books that last 300 years and that is whilst we have all kinds of machines that allow for mass replication, that did not exist before the 14th century. A whole range of places most of them more than a life time of travelling away, yet the similarities are almost astounding. When you consider those elements, consider what more there I and what is making these sotries survive, now consider what you need to make a game of THAT magnitude survive the onslaught of players and their increased need of perfection, have a great day.

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The evolution of god

Yup that was more than a mouthful. Peter Molyneux was ahead of his time, and in all this he was not limited by imagination, he was limited by hardware, as was Sid Meier, as was Richard Garriott, as was David Braben. They made gaming great and their ideas live on, even though in at least one stage it was corrupted by a greed driven corporation hoping that micro transactions would safe them. But what if the next generation consoles and cloud generation gaming is the foundation of new games, what happens when we take the original concept and make it into something serious in a sandbox environment? If we think back to the ‘original’ gods, what happens when we can revisit the age of Hades, Poseidon and Zeus? What if we have the ability to become a god? What if it starts small? What if the game evolves through us, not that WE evolve in a set game?

Consider that energy grows, so consider that we start with accumulating via a bees, wasps, hornets, ants, or termite colony? We get one choice and we still have to find the right colony. Now we can spend time trying to find that colony or we can take a gamble, and as one colony grows the power within us and we row by directing the colony, we get a larger stage, because the colony is merely a first step. From the colony we can grow towards larger herds, towards singular animals and they too provide energy, they provide power and optionally evolve us in other ways too. You see in the old games it was about one person, one setting you and your antagonist, but in this day and age it is outdated, computers have grown more powerful, have grown towards multi creatures, and in all this we merely think of the old god the three, then we get Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Apollo, Artemis. But what if these templates are merely that, mere templates and you get to decide what kind of a god you become? We think back to (the good old days and) a game like Black and White, which was awesome but what happens when our power is depending on how we grow the initial power base? We can rely on the biggest termite foundation ever, but life is a setting of checks, balances and equilibrium, because without  stage of equilibrium you always end up with nothing. So far no game ever went there. We might consider that before the PS4 it as not possible and you might be right, but now in the PS5 era, we see that games like Elite Dangerous become larger than the original creator thought was possible on a BBC Micro B. That is no longer the case and even as I would love to play Populous 2 again, time moves on and we need to push games forward too. As far as I can tell, no one has made a clear push forward in setting a new stage of the god games and in light of the options within cloud gaming that is slightly weird. Cloud gaming is by default the stage where these games can evolve, so what I stopping game developers from going there? A lack of creativity maybe? It took me a moment to pause nd a little of pondering to set a new stage, and if I can do it, those wannabe great software houses should be ahead of me by a lot, so why aren’t they?

And all this is before you consider Neil Gaiman with American Gods, where the new gods get their energy and power from a very different stage, so what is keeping game makers from evolving as well? 

And all this is set to a stage of western gods, I haven’t even considered what a place like India could add to the mix. And I got this far on only one coffee.

Have a great weekend

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It’s good to be evil

It is the the phase that gave life and fame to Dungeon Keeper 2, it was not used by the first game that was released in 1997, but the fame of the first game was not less, it was a time when games were still in its infancy and good ideas were wasted all over the place. Both the first and second dungeon keeper were amazing games, as was an earlier release by Bullfrog named Magic Carpet. Still the IP was used later on by EA to set Dungeon Keeper in a stage of micro transactions and there EA screwed up the IP for life. A stage set to ‘maximise’ earnings became the downfall of EA. Yet the original games are still revered by a lot of people, as such wouldn’t it be nice if EA cleaned up its act? In the last week we got ‘EA now owns Codemasters and its many, many racing games’, ‘Here’s why Glu is an excellent strategic fit for EA’, as well as ‘The Silence After EA’s Anthem 2.0 Decision is Concerning’, you see Glu could be a good buy, yet in all this it only sets out the stage if there is an option to get a return on investment towards the $2,100,000,000 spend on this. The investigation (at https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2021-02-22-heres-why-glu-is-an-excellent-strategic-fit-for-ea) is quite good. It shows a part that I never considered and that does not matter, yet what is important is “The acquisition helps EA address a weakness by acquiring a suite of high-grossing titles that are very female-friendly and have large, loyal audiences. Plus, Glu’s expertise with these genres means that EA is gaining a lot more knowledge and insight into this demographic, which we expect will translate into enhancements for future Sims games.” It is important, because we see an element that is mostly ignored “have large, loyal audiences” is nice, but only if you treat them right and that is where EA loses the wheels on their wagons, not once, but multiple times. As I see it greed driven executives tend to destroy signs of loyalty. And there the shoe becomes a larger stage of concern. You see we can accept that we can either do right by loyalty or create it, the first tends to be easy, muzzle the greed driven executive is a first, creating it requires the greed driven executive to leave the room permanently and EA does not seem to be able to do this. 

In this, there are a few options, consider the stage we saw when we were offered Magic Carpet. So what happens when that game is relaunched in an upgraded version, one that would play wildly on a Nintendo Switch. Elements of the game can remain in place but the game needs alteration as to not infringe on the IP of Bullfrog (now EA), I feel justified as EA ignored it old IP for well over a decade and the ones they did not ignore was clobbered towards the stone age. 

As such Magic Carpet could be a much larger sandbox game. A map of Iraq extending to the Mediterranean Sea, with parts of Saudi Arabia and Iran. A stage where the power of your castle and the magic carpet comes from growth, a stage where we can learn new tricks and new abilities are found all over the map. You see the old systems could never do this, the computers were not powerful enough, but the Switch might make a new setting true, its controllers will have one for movement, one for fighting. A stage grown to the new systems. As such we can grow the fortress, and as abilities are acquired we can do more, go further and unlock more. As such the game takes a rather new turn.

The same can be done with Dungeon keeper, but that will have to take a massive adjustment, the stage of Dungeon keeper is too set. Still the idea was awesome. Consider the stage of Silent Hill, but now you are not the player, you are pyramid head, a stage where we consider the games were you play the antagonist. Pyramid Head is one of the more famous ones, yet consider that station with the man Dirk Garthwaite who became wrecker (a Marvel character), what if we can reshape such a person to our personal taste? We are all getting overwhelmed with the Norse gods through TV series and games, yet that same setting might come from Greek, Egyptian, Hindu, Inca or Aztec deities. All options to consider in the stage of making a game, yet how many still embrace the good old slogan ‘It’s good to be evil’?

I am asking because some sources give us ‘Global game revenue to reach $29bn by 2021’, all whilst a country like Australia only set their notch on $140 million, which amounts to 0.4%, not a lot to write home about is it? If loyalty is indeed key and when we see EA (and a few others) bungle the cake, how come they still end up with a large slice of that pie? As I see it, it should be relatively easy to take it from them with a better product and a better product is key in gaining loyalty. EA might have paid $2.1 billion for that database, but that will not stop competitors Nintendo and optionally Amazon to take over that cake. These two players are driven to loyalty and they can have it if they play their cards right. 

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Before life was, I was

Yup, there is the ego, floating over your head, look to the right, no, your other right, look about 43.8 degree higher (if you are outside) take the second star to the right, yup, there I am. So as you might have guessed, it is time to talk about god-games and whatever I consider here, is free to use in any Sony exclusive game.

To see this, we need to go back to the foundation of god-games. My introduction to this type was in the 80’s when Little Computer People came to the CBM64. We all see the age of Peter Molyneux as the stage of the ‘true’ god games, but it is out in the open to accept or reject that notion. And in all this, most of us might remember the game Black and White. It was a more god game than most god games and even the guy upstairs agrees, right Hades? 

Yet what if we create a game where it is merely part of the game, not the game itself. For example, if we set to an example most of us remember ‘Assassins Creed Brotherhood’, consider that the game remains the control of Ezio Auditore, yet the god side of it is that we can to some degree control the actions of NPC’s. An example, Ezio is running through town, and that is fine, but in the god side we unleash rain on the area and as a result all the courtesans hide inside their houses. Ezio loses an ability to his side. This is a crude version. 

So if we use the divine powers in Black and White, it is a direct option, what if it becomes indirect? Like drawing a line in the sand, the ants will find another path, but that is as clear an option as it comes. So what happens when the game is about indirect channelling and it becomes about indirect guidance. Not as a setting in the game, but as a setting towards the game? So like Batman fights his opponents in Arkham knight, we influence the brutality of those around him, we set the premise of depression of the victims around him, it changes the game, it changes his focus, whilst the gamer does not see a change in the player, the stage we see in detective mode of Batman and we see the criminals are at some point terrified, Batman instilled this, but what happens when we set a secondary stage that affects the persons in the area, but Batman cannot directly influence that. That stage is influenced by the the NPC’s, not like the stupid wave like behaviour we saw in AC Unity again and again, but a sort of herd like behaviour in NPC’s, it changes the entire setting of the playable area and we forgot about that, thee gamer (and the developer was so focussed on Ezio Auditore, Batman, Edward Kenway, they forgot to set the influence stage on the population when Batman, Poison Ivy, or Vaas comes into the level. Yes, there was some attempt (AC Unity) the the fear was where we see street run away in front of you was a failed attempt at this. A stage where we can only influence a second tier (up to a point), is something we have never faced. In this I grab back to the Black and White part. Until we set the premise where an evangelist is created by their own choice, the influence is limited. So we can directly interfere in the game (buildings, infrastructure), yet the NPC influence is only limited. Games like Spore, Black and White set the action as direct. I want to change that, give a much larger challenge where the person having the finger needs to think where he draws the line for the ants.

It is a speculative setting, but that is all that I can offer in a conceptual setting. It is conceptual, because it has never been done before and evolution of games happens in a stage where things are new and never done before, there was always the first one. And that is what we are aiming for, something never done in gaming before, upgrading the level of gameplay down the line, and that was all that gamers want, a new level of play, we all want that, because sooner rather than later more of the same becomes tiring. And for the most, the sandbox games has left the NPC part of their game to too much of a limiting factor. So we need to change that side of things if only to make sandbox games more realistic and more believable.

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I see dead people

There is a stage we all see and we all think we seem to know, I am very set on the ‘seem to’ part. I stumbled upon a 5 years old article by TechCrunch, it is about Peter Molyneux, a person I personally know, so I was curious. It was the beginning that got to me. With “the British game development hero that spearheaded famous studios Bullfrog and Lionhead, but who also always had a reputation of being fluid with the truth. Molyneux was the guy who made Populous and led the studios that created Theme Park, Dungeon Keeper, Syndicate, The Movies, Fable, Black and White, Magic Carpet and many others. But Molyneux was also a teller of tall tales, a maker of wild promises in interviews that had little chance of being realised” the game is on, you see it is about the games, and Bullfrog let by Peter delivered again and again on CBM64, Atari ST, Amiga and PC. I still miss some of these games. They opened the mind, the made us creative and it pushed us to think different. So when we get to ‘a teller of tall tales, a maker of wild promises in interviews that had little chance of being realised’, we are b being misled on two fronts. The first is that (as far as I know) Peter has always been in the business of pushing gaming boundaries. It is hard to prove this, but I have an example, in those days I had a mouthwatering PC, it had all the bells and whistles and it would make coffee for me if it had hands, so here I am with a high end graphics card that can do anything with was, so even as Black and White is fun and amazing, it was that merely fun and amazing, about three months after the game releases there is a new graphics card and I install it, I had nothing real to do and I restart Black and White, so when the temple is built and I walk inside my mouth drops, it blew me away. Black and White was the first game that was ready for the nextgen graphics, it was the first time this would happen to me. Even now I still hope for a remaster of Magic Carpet on the new consoles, a rerelease of dungeon keeper, and only team bullfrog can deliver on that.

The second part is the one TechCrunch does not mention, in the early 90’s, the media was on gaming like nothing you ever saw, the journo’s at the ECTS were renowned, worse than paparazzi and always looking for a sound-byte, an exploit and that part is not mentioned, also the words of Molyneux have been pulled out of context more than once, he did something other gamer makers did not achieve, he surpassed the boundaries of systems. That can be seen if you compare the reboot of Syndicate with the original, the original remains vastly superior 20 years later. The reboot got a mere 66%, it is vision that get us games and Peter Molyneux had just that. Then we get a part the is hard to dispute and most likely correct “The other reason Molyneux thrived was that his team delivered. There are, and will forever remain, disputes over exactly how much he was involved with some of the titles to his name (Glenn Corpes, Sean Cooper, Demis Hassabis and a variety of others deserve their credit) but what was inarguable was that Molyneux had managed to create an environment in which great games happened”, yes Peter was not alone and we all get that, but Peter made it happen and it is undeniable, great games happened at Bullfrog and Lionhead. The titles are still revered and people still yearn for another fable, another dungeon keeper and another theme park, even now, even 20 years later, that is gaming at the edge!

Then we get a gem “He would combine those ideals to form an exciting story for what a game might be, often road testing a certain phrase or image with you before using it with the press. This, I gather, is not unlike the way Steve Jobs seems to have been”, the man was part visionary and could recognise visionaries in coders, that is part why his games were so great (the original concept is part of that), until Bullfrog, who had considered being the bad guy in Hero quest would be entertaining? And that is the foundation of great gaming, bel to turn the equation upside down and get another nugget of gold, he had this. I particularly like the end of the article “Ambitious design, big ideas and bold visions are what propel the games industry forward. When all is said and done, create-a-cash-engine mentalities are only ever temporary, but it’s the ambition that makes video games forever. I for one hope that Molyneux rises from the ashes one last time to teach us this lesson again”, it is all the parts Ubisoft forgot to be, it is all the sides the spreadsheet driven BI executives at EA and likeminded companies are dumbstruck on. I hope that he gets a few more notches on his 6 shooter with new titles on nextgen, optionally Google Stadia too. Consider the titles we saw at the beginning and consider that those who knew the games still remember them and love them 20+ years later, that is an achievement only Nintendo has been able to equal. 

So when it comes to Bullfrog, its staff and the man behind it, I tend to see dead people, it is the press behind it, not the makers of games, they have proven their grit, they did it several times. 

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Your field of dreams

We are all in a field of dreams, a field where we see the initial turn of the cards in our favour, some of these dreams are a little selfish, it does not make us selfish, but we are at times in a setting where the game needs to go over way. In my case it is Google buying my IP with the start payment of $25,000,000 post taxation, in the second offering it is Huawei buying it (for the same setting). Amazon is allowed to buy it, but I reckon that 5G technology is something that Amazon is not yet ready for, in the 4th is Elon Musk and he is only there because he makes things happen, he pushes boundaries and that works in my favour in this case. Is it silly (read: stupid) to sell $2,000,000,000 (in its least positive setting) for a mere $25 million? No, because the second payment is that I still hold on to 40% of the registered IP, they get 60%, this is not throwing away money, the I setting a page where I get 40% of something instead of 100% of nothing. We need to realise what we can do and what is outside our reach. We need to push for the field of dreams to get towards reality, not to make the golden dream more and more golden and never a reality.

In gaming, I am not a coder, not a programmer, I never was. But I could think ion a whole range of games, of improvements almost at the drop of a hat (any hat). Yet the stage was never there and I was never a Peter Molyneux or a Richard Garriott (real visionaries). Yet that is the one part I shared with Steve Jobs, he was not really a visionary either, but he recognised the people with vision around him and he could relate to that. It sets a different stage. There was a reason I came up with Watchdogs IV, Elder Scrolls VII: Restoration and so on, I saw what was possible, I could think out the stories. In the same way that I am now working on my second short story (with a wink towards Rendezvous with Rama), and my minds keeps on creating, even when I need it to stop (sleep is a pesky thing we need). Two 5G devices, several adjusted solutions towards 5G and optionally a new setting towards 5G mobiles making them extremely private. All settings I came up with in less than a day each. Then there is the Gordian One weapon systems and a solution towards reactors the I (with my sense of humour) called S.N.O.W., it even comes with two new valves, a wasp valve and a piranha valve (different applications), the device needs testing, and it has a positive side and a negative side. The upside is that if I get it to work, Iran can take its reactor and sell it for scrap and concrete chunks, the downside is one I will not discuss here, because I will be honest, it is scary and I do not really combine scary and NBC solutions, it tends to be real crazy stuff. 

In all this, we still feed the field of dreams, I am no exception, in my mind I end up with a nice cushy job until I retire and a really really nice house to live in when I retire and before that. Some dreams are simple in nature, we tend to not need a lot in that setting. I like the quote in the dark Knight the best in that regard, because the application is larger “I’m like a dog chasing cars, I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one, you know, I just do…things”, we all tend to chase cars, whether it is that large fee, that gorgeous partner (who we tend to hope is still a virgin), that super large slice of Tiramisu, in the end, things are like cars, when we have it we look for the next thing, the house, the cushy job, the dream partner, they are essential needs, they link to our souls, we all want a version of that. And there is the danger and the blessing of the field of dreams. Phil Alden Robinson was right, faith and family have a larger imprint, yet the issue is not merely to have faith, but to have faith in self, that is the trigger, we can all have faith in someone else, but when that person has a larger faith in what I regard to be delusional politics (Paula White), how does your field of dreams evolve into a nightmare? That is the setting the some face, not me, even though I am a Republican at heart, someone like Donald Trump should not be allowed to continue, he damaged the Republican Party more than anyone realises, John McCain or Mitt Romney, either are 50 times the man the Donald Trump could ever be and he is looking towards a $400,000,000 court case involving taxes if I am not mistaken. We can invite into our field whomever we want, but we must take care that this field is about valuing self, not others, that dream partner is about the extension of you, your dream, your field. 

The problem for a lot of us I what we take into the field, for me it is my workaholic self, I know this, it is how I have always been, and in the past there was trust to former bosses, but that is now gone, I accept the choices I made and I made a few by trusting those who shouldn’t have received trust, but it was me, I merely blame myself. I walked in there with my eyes open. 

I now am in the final stretch and it is not a final score, but it is close to one and if I pull it off the balance goes deep into the green, if not I stay in the red, I accept that, I made choices and I accept that. Yet when you set up your field of dreams to propel you to the next idea, the next option or the next choice, be aware of what you took into the field, as long it is just those things and thoughts that are yours, you are fine.

If that does not scare you, consider the political implications that the Galvin report brought “A report, named after Robert Galvin, head auditor, and whose name appears on its front cover, was initially written at the end of 2006 as an audit of the expenses and allowances claimed by a sample of more than 160 MEPs. The existence of the report was kept secret until an updated version in February saw the fact of its existence made public by Chris Davies MEP. Even then, its contents remained secret”, and it is not that this happened, it is the small little part the we see with ‘its contents remained secret’, so in what universe does any government keep the wheelings and dealing of MEP’s a secret, especially when there are a lot of questions that need answering? 

When we see “Two MEPs were found to be paying out full assistance allowance, but neither had any assistant actually accredited or registered with the Parliament”, which I tend to see as some form of fraud, are these two MEPs still in office? We might concern ourselves with our own field of Dreams, and when we see what happens in the real world, we see no other way to live, unless we set a stage where these tools make a lot of money (at your expense), and should you wonder why I have a trust issue, consider that you can only make money if 50% or better goes towards greasing the gears, the is what the politics of most nations tend to fall towards. These people will only act when there is something in it for them. Ae the thoughts I am having so outlandish? 

Part of it is seen with “Huge end of year bonuses are being paid, often simply to use up as much of the allowance as is left over, between 3 and 19.5 times the recipient’s monthly salary”, and we wonder why we cannot get the budgets to fit? I reckon that this is a form that would apply and the governments stay silent, our field is all that remains, it is close to pure and it is seemingly clean, as long as no-one enters we are unaware of.

Philosophy teaches us that trust is risky, the question of when it is warranted is of particular and increasing importance. In case of our own field of dreams, we warrant very little risk, because for some that field contains a life of ambitions, and who would you trust with your lifetime of ambitions? You partner perhaps, your parents perhaps, but it tends to end there, for most that is all there is and the dream is about to shatter, when your field of dreams shatters, will you be safe?

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Rule of thumb

It started with me wondering what else I could do. I have been involved with gaming since 1984, I started testing and reviewing games in 1986, so I have been around for a while. I met the giants in gaming. Sid Meier, Richard Garriott, Peter Molyneux and a few others. They and the games they made formed the views I have on gaming, there are of course more others too. 

My normal job was in technical support and teaching, as such I had a firm grasp on technology. I learned to teach, teach software and technology and as such, my life was a decently happy one. 

Still, I wonder what else is possible, you see only the delusional ones think they can do everything. I agree that any person can do anything and if they are given, committed and enthusiastic, they become good at it. I believe that to be true for everyone, no matter gender, race, religion or age. 

It kind of intertwines with the elections in the US, after 4 years we see a shift and now I wonder if anyone in the media has the balls to set an image of Donald Trump tomorrow on page one, with the text “You’re fired!”, providing Joe Biden gets the 270 he needs. I wonder when that stage will be reached, and if it will be reached. They all claim that Biden will win, yet there is a decent. Chance that Pennsylvania will remain in camp Trump, with 89% counted and 20 votes, the advantage of 2.6% there is no given that Biden will win and even if he does, the difference is too small, so a recount is inevitable. In Arizona the roles are reversed, yet here only 11 votes are up for grabs, giving us the optional score of 254 for Biden and 234 for Trump, it is a setting weirdly close and like the old series the West Wing, two states might set the end and at this point President Trump has the lead. Those three sites are Georgia and North Carolin with 16 and 15 votes. I am careful not to set the stage of what might be, I am Republican minded, but I am definitely no President Trump fan. So as I take notice of ‘Stop the count!’: Angry Trump supporters amass at counting centres’, I wonder just how stupid Trump fans are to call for an end to democracy. A vote is a vote and they should all be counted, that is how democracy works. And this is where the brain started to twist. Whenever we are in any RPG, it is about our actions, it is about what WE decide should happen. It matters not what the RPG is, that is how the game is set.

But what happens when we change that, what happens when we sign up for a game with a political stage? What happens when our actions becomes pro or counter RPG government? You see, when I initially designed the idea of Elder Scrolls VII: Restoration (before they gave their soul to Microsoft), I had not considered it, yet in MEA 1+2 and optionally Citadel: Incursion (I had to give it. Name), that stage becomes a larger issue. Politics is at the fibre of any stage and we ignored it in RPG to a larger extent mainly because of system limitations. The new systems will have computing power in abundance, so it becomes less of a hindrance and setting that stage to a proper foundation, especially in a game like Mass Effect Andromeda is has an influence, because as we unlock more and more pods to wake up, the political stage on a station like the nexus will also alter, it sets a larger stage, a larger application of what we need to do. Even as the stage is not always on what we need to achieve, the general direction will alter and so fr no game took this into account (as the systems weren’t powerful enough). 

This changes what gaming provides, yes we like to make decisions in our RPG and that does not change, but there is the greater good and the larger picture to consider, it becomes even more interesting if that picture is not available to the player, the story could take a few interesting twists along the way. To illustrate that, we can look at a TV-series called Babylon 5. When we were in season 1, we see the Narn, Centauri, Minbari, Humans, Vorlon and others. Yet the Narn and Centauri are arch enemies, so working for one makes the other off limits and that is a mere extreme example. If we decide to act alone, we might side with one group and optionally piss off another, it is the nature of the game and gaming will become less black and white and more grey tones. It is also a lot harder to program. For example it is not like in the old The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you could only buy certain houses when certain fame levels are reached.   Yet what happens when fame and infamy are more fluidic? What happens when missions are only offered to the infamous (or famous) and above certain ranks? It will not change the game, but it will colour the stage to some degree, that same stage will be influenced when we colour a governmental stage, like the US, Blue, Red and Green. We see a larger stage where working for the ‘other’ party is allowed, but at that stage, we gain infamy a well as political points. See it as a new complexity level in RPG gaming. There is no doubt in my mind that this is where we are heading, mainly because it os now possible to do just that, and as we see the need for games with a larger value to replay a game, the setting of another level of complexity is pretty much a guarantee. We might want to lean back and reach back to the original D&D rules of thumb rulings, but I reckon that console gaming has surpassed it a few times over. Even as Ubisoft stated in a game ‘Cull the herd’, that stage is one we seemingly walked away from. We do not oppose the eradication of the horde (it’s an Orc thing), but it also leaves us open to eradication as well. And as such we need to set the stage to a larger frame, because that is what we do.

Extremes are nice to colour the stage, but it is the blending of values that give a larger appreciation of any story, there is plenty of evidence out there and as I see it, there is a much larger stage to fill it up, how it is done is up to the gaming visionaries.

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It’s been that long

I got alerted to a milestone yesterday on YouTube, you see, last week was the 25th anniversary of System Shock, one of my most beloved games from the past. I still remember the two moments that set the milestones for this game. The first was the PC Format by Future plc. About a month before the release, PC format included the entire first level of the game (medical level). So you got about an hour of gameplay into that game, a month later the game arrived and of course, I had to have that game on day one! I did and that started a tour of around a week getting through the game. Someone was nice enough to stream the game (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IzNzVAxk8E) the stream starts at 10:00. Even now, hearing the intro music still gives me the good shivers. For a game to do that is so rare, it is to some degree scary. I am still awaiting the remastered edition by NightDive Studios. It will be launched a little later than planned (2020) but on all the consoles, so I might get that happy feeling again on all my consoles.

This is the foundation of better than great gaming, the story, the emersion and the control. The game offered all three to a great degree. That part is also important as System Shock 2, a game that came 5 years later had almost all the same controls, the first game was the founding father of RPG games, and control was close to that perfect. Graphics did upgrade by a lot, yet the shock (for me) in this game that the game only sold 170,000 copies, not much for a game this perfect, as such I do hope that the remaster will hand out the multimillion copy achievement sold. When we look at PC Gamer we see: “System Shock smokes. It is the most fully immersive game world I have ever experienced“, as well as “no matter what kind of game you’re looking for, you’ll find something in System Shock to delight you“. Finishing with “unquestionably raises computer gaming to a new level” (at https://web.archive.org/web/20000309153138/http://www.pcgamer.com/reviews/1024.html), I gave the game a similar review and gave it a 95% score when I reviewed it.

From that moment on, I reviewed RPG games using System Shock as the minimum bar, as you might imagine not many games got to that level. It was also the first game where ‘leaning around corners‘ became an option in shooting games. As far as you see the stream and listening to the makers of the game, you get the part how this game became a trendsetter of excellence, even if they do not mention it, it was a labour of love and passion gets to be the deciding driver in any game towards excellence.

Depending on your age, consider the game that you would play again after 10, 20 and 25 years. What titles come to mind? In my view Elite Dangerous (after 35 years), Ultima 4 (after 35 years), System Shock (after 25 years), Ultima 7 (after 25 years), System Shock 2 (after 20 years), and the list goes on, but it is not a long list, games that are dipped in excellence are rare to say the least. Yet I am a gamer, a game junkie and like all other gamers I remain hopeful that another developer gets it right to the largest degree, Ubisoft did that with Assassins Creed 2 (and Brotherhood) then stuffed up to a much larger degree until Assassins Creed Origins was released. That is why the scrutiny of 93%+ games is so essential. Most gamers will take a turn in other direction if it gives them excellence, yet when they leave their comfort zone in gaming, excellence is the only marker that they will accept to make them do so. Games like Mass Effect 2, The Witcher 3, Grand Theft Auto V, Horizon Zero Dawn, all games that relied on near perfection; it is a stage that is seldom reached. And in all this the FX Slogan was key (for me it is) ‘The story is everything‘. Horizon Zero Dawn is perhaps the strongest example. In the beginning I enjoyed the game, yet it was the storyline after the proving that set the stage for me to continue and learn more and more. The origin story of Elisabeth Sobeck and Aloy is absolutely marvellous. Yes, I have seen the rants against the game, rants like ‘Giving up Horizon Zero Dawn‘ (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qv_1DzGf_1s). His response ‘I just don’t find it interesting anymore‘. Yes, I do not agree, but it is his view, and his view is valid to him, just when we see this he is still not completing: ‘The War – Chief’s trail‘. Yet the best story parts were still coming up and the game takes it time getting into the story, it is important to show this, because you might have a different love for games, I love stealth games, games with an essential need for stealth, not everyone loves this, I get that. You have to realise that, I might not be the voice for you; I might have other loves in gaming. I was never a lover of GTA5, I admire it for its excellence, but it is not my game, it is however for millions of other gamers.

In this view it is important to find more voices until you find the reviewer that aligns with your fulfilment in gaming. It is easy to find good reviews and for many games a lot will have the same view, but in the 90%+ range you need to find the one voice that is on your level of gaming. It is easy to merely see that The Last of Us was a great game, pretty much everyone will agree, yet Dark Souls 3 and Bloodborne? I loved both games; I never got to complete them. With Bloodborne I actually stopped (after a dozen attempts), I still have the game as it shows excellence on many levels and the engine is sublime, but it is also an excellent example for ratings. I would give it 91%, yet others will give it 93%-95% and now we have the review issue. Are their reviews better? They might be, they might be better at playing this game, more important, they might highlight things I missed, because I was not great at this game. Graphics and engines are easy, the subtle parts defining Bloodborne (as well as Dark Souls 3) is another matter. And now you come into the mix thinking it was merely an 85% game as you did not like the game (which is fair enough), finding the right reviewer is important, more important, the one that aligns with your game play and this is where a game like System Shock differs. The game remained playable for a much larger audience. Now we accept that the gaming bar was not as high in 1994 as it is in 2014, yet playability had remained similar over 25 years, it is my view that Bloodborne is a great game, yet, to me, it is not as playable. That small distinction is important when you seek out buying a full priced game that totally rocks your world.

To me the story is a deciding factor, whilst play style is the most important second. That part is visible to many who remember Metroid Prime on GameCube; I still love that game as well. I never got beyond 98% completion, and I would love to play it again getting to 100%, that is because the game is extremely playable with a play style that is set to comfort. We might sneer at the graphic level (compared to the Xbox and Playstation2 in those days), yet Metroid Prime still delivered as an equal and better to anything the other two could offer. That part validates the 97% rating it received. Yet, if it is not your game, would you still regard it as high?

The question is important as System Shock did make that cut, even by those not loving the game style, they were all impressed with the game, it set a new bar of quality, Metroid Prime and Horizon Zero Dawn both did that as well.

And it is there where we see the stage for streaming games, for Apple Arcade, Google Stadia and thee we see the links. Apple Arcade shows smooth gaming, but not hi-res gaming. That is not an issue if you consider Metroid Prime, the lowest resolution of the three consoles delivered the best gaming experience of all. You can see this (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q73cHEAwKVw), I found the top 10 interesting, but not overwhelming, of course the number one is like some Zelda clone, with decent graphics, but not great graphics. There are 100 games announced yet there too I wonder if people are willing to pay $5 a month, $60 a year to do this, You can argue if you can find even 3 games you really like, then the money is well spent. So it is a decent idea, the issue I have with the stage is that the solution will be years two and later. However, in a family setting the game changes massively, the cost is per family (up to 5 players) as such $1 per person per month is just too good to pass up.
More important is the fact that the games look amazing on the iPad, so there is that to consider. My larger personal issue is long term. For me it is $8 month (Australia), as such in Australia it gets down to $100 a year. It has good games and the important dig is: no ads, unlimited access to 100+ new games rolling out later this year, as well as download for off-line playing are the catchers that will make people try this. Consider the initial $100 for the entire year, seems a lot, but playing 100 games for the price of one is still a game changer. I am assuming that you can only play for as long as you are a member, but we get the same on consoles, so that should not be the issue.

The arrival of Apple Arcade and Google Stadia is still important, but not for the reason you think. System Shock was important as the game was a true innovator in gaming. These new streaming services are set on a stage where the amounts of gamers imply the revenue for the makers. Even as marketing get you in the beginning, the bulk of gamers will push for games that are TRULY innovative and I have learned and seen that true innovation pushes the envelope of games in general. System Shock, Command and Conquer, Metal Gear Solid, Wolfenstein 3D, Gran Turismo, Warcraft 3, Minecraft, Tombraider, Diablo, Zelda – Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye, Super Mario 64, Half-Life, Doom. These are on a short list of the most innovative games in history and the most important part is that most of them started on systems lacking resources. Systems like the first PlayStation, the Nintendo 64 and the PC-Pentium One. Most mobiles and tablets now surpass what was possible even in those maxed out years. As such, innovation was always about imagination and I love the idea of streaming services as it pushes the need for innovation. I go back to System Shock one and two, yet some might remember Molyneux’s titanic achievement Black and White, a god video game. A game where you influence actions and not control all actions, when you realise that innovation is creation linked to imagination, we start considering the lack of resources required, not the max of resources. In this games and gamers are about finding the right note, the right chord that makes your heart sing. System Shock still does that to me 25 years later (OK, Elite Dangerous does it as well after 35 years).

I still play Blockheads by Dave Frampton after 6 years on my very first iPad, it is basically the only reason I still use my very first iPad for anything else but reading (until I get a new one). I got the game to deal with my Minecraft addiction when I was not at home and I never regretted getting it (oh, and I found the tablet edition of Minecraft not that playable), even today (last night actually) I still play Blockheads.

We might think that innovation fades, as it would over time, but I personally learned that innovation creates a captive audience regardless of time, it is a personal observation and you might not agree, but I also believe that this is the stepping stone for both Apple Arcade and Google Stadia. Consider the re-released consoles. CBM64 mini that gives us: Boulder Dash, Paradroid, Jumpman, Temple of Apshai Trilogy, Uridium, Impossible Mission (1+2), Winter Games and Summer Games II all games that could be upgraded and give a new audience the games they love to play. The CBM 64 brought so much innovation in games with only 64KB available; these games became the foundation for better games as systems upgraded (Atari ST and CBM Amiga). In this Nintendo with their 64 was pushing the envelope even further, Super Mario 64 is just one title, Goldeneye (named after the bond movie) set the bar so high that it was still the most desired game a decade later, even as the Wii relaunched the game, it ended up being inferior to the original, that is the level of excellence we lost out on and in this resources are not the issue, these are games that could easily be streamed and offer gaming perfection.

The list goes on and it would take too long, yet when we consider sources like My Abandonware and other sources (like Amiga Emulators) we see optional chests containing hundreds of titles that are ready to be remade and a lot of it has no IP protection, as such the best programmers can take the great vision and turn it into a cash maker through streaming. I reckon that is what both Google Stadia and Apple Arcade are hoping for, I am uncertain to see a winner at present, but the games that make it will be the deciding factor and even as the games on Apple are not great, they are still off to a good start, I myself hope that the historic database will inspire game makers, and this is a field where both genders can excel, you merely need to remember the name Danielle Bunten Berry (M.U.L.E. and Seven Cities of Gold) to realise that creativity was key, not gender. As such I do hope that we see both genders remain active, even as Danielle Bunten Berry left us in 1998, her games could stay around for much longer, that is the other part of innovation, it has no expiration date; it is almost timeless. If you doubt that, consider her games as well as those by Roberta Williams (King’s quest series). That is actually another part of gaming, there the playing field for genders is almost level as creativity not ego decides on the quality of the game.

As such it might have been that long, but in the end, the timeline was not long enough, I am willing to get into streaming to some degree (Assassins Creed Odyssey might get lag issues) but there are hundreds of games that will never have that issue and the list of games that will hit the spot is a lot larger than anyone ever considered, especially when a good idea (or a great idea) gets upgraded with innovations that were not available when a certain game came out.

Consider the game Command and conquer, optionally a game like Battle for Middle Earth, or even Dungeon Keeper 2. We have gone through those games and finished all the maps; now consider the issues you face when the maps are created procedural, would your strategy still hold up? That question impacts all three games. Often the strategy was in the map design, take that away and the challenge changes by a lot. I believe that ‘It has been that long‘ is a premise that does not really exist in gaming, I truly believe that System Shock will capture the hearts of new gamers, I believe that upgrading innovation that was will give life to other games, even games that were in the 80%-90% and upgrade them by an optional 15%, and be honest, what game maker would not love to be linked to making a 90%+ game? At present Ubisoft is seemingly proud of their 70% games (so are a few other makers mind you), so we can see the essential need of excellence in gaming, the question is who will bring it and with two new players (gaming providers) entering that field, answering those question becomes a lot more important as we (gamers in general) have had our fill of mediocre games.

Even now we see that as we still yearn for Elder Scrolls: Oblivion as well as Skyrim; I stated to Richard Garriott (the man behind the Ultima series) a while go, if we could get the Oblivion/Skyrim engine and create Sosaria to life, we would have a winner that could entice millions of gamers. Skyrim with over 30 million sold is clear evidence of that and the tales of Sosaria were founded on great story-lines and compelling interaction of personal choices and philosophical concepts. The entire Ultima line (story 4 and later) are all about eh seven virtues (Honesty, Justice, Honour, Sacrifice, Compassion, Spirituality and Humility), it would be the foundation of 6 games, each one surpassing the previous one and to see the evolution from isometric to first person would be the game changer for anyone who loved that story-line, in addition, the Elder Scrolls never did concepts to that degree, which is not their flaw, but it could be the strength of any new Ultima IP.

It is in that part where I see System Shock one and two, it was near perfect and it is still ready for a whole new generation of players. Especially when you consider that the original System Shock on floppy (yes there was a floppy version) was a mere 15Mb, and Metroid Prime on GameCube was less than 1.5Gb, whilst Goldeneye was a mere 64Mb, so as you can see size was never the deciding factor.

I believe that 2020 will be an interesting year for games and gamers. I believe that those relying on ridiculous large games and high resource requiring games (like a Core i9-9980XE) will find that their size issue gets thumbed by true playability and innovation setting the stage for much better games after that. Innovation remains a game changer for games and I wonder how much change we get to see in 2021-2022.

 

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A gaming shift

I am watching on how Google and Apple are starting their stream service. I don’t expect to sign up (no way will I get to Apple), but there is also another side to it all and I am not sure whether we realise this.

I might be outspoken not into Apple Arcade, yet this is largely because I am an android man. I still have my very first iPad, the anonymous one, without camera’s and such and it has done its job for over 8 years. Yes, I have games on it and foremost, the one game I still play is Blockheads, even after all these years. Like Minecraft it is fun escapism playing whilst my mind works out puzzles in the background. On the iPad 1 I also still play Sudoku and a few other games, on Android my life limits me to a few games, Gems of War being the most outspoken one.

The use of problem would be the wrong word, there is no problem, and the limitation that these systems show is the stage of real gaming. The bulk of people might be happy with Candy King, or some equivalent, the bulk might like Pokémon Go, yet is it gaming or connected mini games?

The question is more important than you might think; the question becomes what is real gaming to you? For a lot it is FIFA, NFL, NBA and NHL games and that is fine, for me it will be RPG’s. I consider Minecraft to be a game that I really love playing, yet true gaming is more and we forget the elements that we loved when we go for the short term. The Nintendo Switch makes games truly mobile, yet until I played some of the streaming games to confirm this, they might be the only one that still embraces real gaming on the go. You see, it only hits you when you see (or see again) the cut scene movies of games like God of War 4 and Horizon Zero Dawn to realise the massive journey you took to get to the end. You do not comprehend the journey until you have been on it, and Guerrilla games made more than an effort, it created an origin story so titanic in size and so overwhelming in completeness that you wonder who could ever equal it. The Horizon Zero Dawn (HZD) movie journey is well over 5 hours and that is merely the cut scene and stories that are part of a hundred hours of gameplay. I reckon it can be done sooner, but you might lose out on seeing just how amazing that world was. Santa Monica Studio did the same with God of War 4, it was a story well done and when you get to the end and see the twist [no spoiler given], and you end of merely sitting back in amazement giving yourself a loud ‘What the fuck?‘ Excelling games do that, Bethesda games do not give us that to the degree the previous two did and they still make excellent games. There is a balance in place in high level gaming, there is a balance, yet it seems to be like a seesaw, what one side gets the other loses. We might have all kinds of issues with like of Ubisoft, yet their graphics and stories have always been really good. Yet it is the other side where they lost largely on gameplay. The earlier mentioned two had both right, both gameplay and story, making the seesaw a much larger version than the one Ubisoft, EA and Rockstar Games have.

Don’t think this is a negative thing; we do not always want RPG games. Even now, lacking storyline, I would not be able to resist playing MediEvil again as it comes to PS4, that game was the reason I bought the PSP when it launched in 2005, I loved the game on the first PlayStation and thoroughly enjoyed it again on the PSP. It is the rewarding feeling of gaming you get making you want to play it again, if that did not exist, we would not have 8 versions of Mario Kart, yet they are not the only one offering that game. I still miss the challenge and fun that Wacky Races on the Dreamcast gave us 19 years ago. In equal measure from that same year there was Fur Fighters, also on Dreamcast (the PS2 version was a disaster). So there is more than a storyline in play, the satisfaction of gaming goes in several directions. It is the challenge of gaming that has a few packages, for RPG story is the overwhelming one, yet without challenging gameplay the game falls flat. In shooters and platform games it is more than the challenge, the shooters offer it most often through multiplayer. For Honor is an excellent example, it is below par on single player due to the lack and often repetitive mission gameplay in single player mode, yet the multiplayer mode is an amazing almost unparalleled experience.

This is where we stand in gaming and I fear that both google and Apple will fall short of that. Even as Apple Arcade comes out in 8 days, it seems that the list of 100 games will remain hidden for those same 8 days, yet there is also the challenge, I do believe we will find games we love, but when you consider the Australian price of $8 a month, would you pay that every month just to keep one game you care for? The games are said not to be sold individually and the 100 games might sound nice, yet what happens in month 3? There lies the issue for both Apple and Google, to entice a population not to play games, but to become gamers and I wonder if they can pull it off beyond year 1, that applies to both Apple and Google. Part of it was exactly what I predicted a long time ago two years ago and Beneath a Steel Sky (a 1994 original) was good gaming and with the reduced resources needed, the game would work well on any mobile or system. My issue is not with newly released golden oldies, it is the ability to embrace those playing games and turn them into actual gamers, they are not the same goal and both Google and Apple will have to rely on the growing number of actual gamers to do better than merely survive. Even as we see that Ghost Recon: Breakpoint comes to Google Stadia, so there are larger games coming to cloud based streaming and here we get the initial issue. So far I personally have had at least one hiccup a day on Netflix, even as it was merely a second it was not an issue, yet in gaming it is a much larger issue, it becomes almost literally the death of you. How will you react then? I believe that congestion is going to be a much larger issue until 5G is truly deployed to the largest extent. One could argue that overall at present the Microsoft Game Pass is too good value for the price and at that point is becomes the break on the acceleration for streaming games.
So what is the issue?

I believe that we face a larger lag soon enough, I believe that there is a danger that the increase of high end RPG gaming will take a hit, as people embrace Google and Apple, the development of games will be towards gaming that includes both new systems; and there is where I see the negative impact. Yes, the two earlier mentioned game makers will still make their games, but a whole range of other developers will try to find a solution that includes all systems and I feel that there is a danger to the development of excelling RPG games; it will decrease and that makes me sad.

Still, the streaming world does have its own challenges and that is where we see the benefit, whenever a challenge is met and surpassed games benefit and that is the trade-off that works on our behalf, there us a whole range of games that were originals and most are now forgotten, yet streaming games could bring them back. 7 cities of gold, Sentinel returns, Fur Fighters, Wacky Races, Shadow man, System Shock 2, Millennium 2.2 and this list goes on for a while. Games that will never be forgotten and could also lead to new game innovation. Even later games like MGS4, guns of the patriot showed innovation at the very end of the PS3 life cycle. People like Richard Garriott who innovated RPG gaming via the Ultima series. People like Peter Molyneux who started with Magic Carpet and Dungeon keeper a new age of gaming, they inspired some of the game makers that followed; the past is full of game makers who inspired others. Yet, this is not the end; these games could also inspire the next phase of gaming. I believe that through limitations we see the creation of new options. If there is one lesson learned from the CBM64, then that would be the one. We embrace gaming because we get to a place we did not think would be possible, Ubisoft showed that when they created Assassins Creed 2, we embraced the first one to some degree because of originality, the second one because we never believed it possible. I believe that this is the part we forgot about when Xbox360 went to Xbox One and PS3 when to PS4. Even now as PS5 and Xbox Two are coming, we still see merely a larger version of what was. It is games like Cyberpunk 2077 that will show what would be possible, in the same way that MGS4, guns of the patriot did on PS3.

With Streaming we will see new hurdles and we will meet innovative game designers that will get past that boundary showing us something we never saw coming, that is the stage the true gamer embraces, it goes beyond we thought we could and that is also why we look with eager eyes to Santa Monica Studio who surpassed itself three times over with every God of War release, the same we hope to see with Guerrilla games and a new Eloy story (the ending game ample consideration there), yet in the end we do not merely want to see more, we want to see more and something entirely new. In that regard CD Projekt RED delivered beyond amazing in Witcher 3 and is as far as we can tell, surpassing excellence again with Cyberpunk 2077. These few makers all delivered 90%+ games, games for true gamers.

And true gamers like junkies need their 90%+ games to stay alive (to coin a phrase), it does not make other games unwanted, it does not make a game like the crew bad (well it does make it below par), yet it does make us wonder how far that game could have been taken, or perhaps what would be possible when it was upgraded to the max, or perhaps what happens when a 97% game like GTA5 is no longer merely is based in the fictional state of San Andreas, but has the ability to cover the entire USA, how many thousands if not millions more gamers would it attract? Streaming might make that possible, and as such streaming will be here to stay when it becomes a serious piece of work, yet in that when we see the wrongful (not incorrect) quote in the Guardian “Arcade, which was demonstrated during the unveiling of Apple’s latest iPhones on Tuesday, is an attempt to turn the mobile gaming industry on its head and add an extensive new revenue stream to the company’s books” (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/sep/10/apple-arcade-launch-netflix-for-games-will-cost-499-a-month) there is a danger that a lot of people forget what streaming could offer, the question becomes to what degree are either Apple and Google aware that this playground for true gamers is equally open for them to dig into?

In a lot of places we see: “Bethesda Softworks is providing a gaggle of titles for Stadia’s launch later this year: “DOOM 2016,” “Rage 2,” “The Elder Scrolls Online,” and “Wolfenstein: Youngblood.”” which is merely a new place to play games already released, yet the corner of what was not done has not been turned yet and I hope that we will see more than merely more of the same, streaming could potentially open a market and give a game that PC’s and consoles cannot offer. Yet until those are actually released, we will have to wait to see just how rewarding that platform actually is, we will know the initial in a week, but it is the second wave that decides on just how successful these platforms will be, it is where the consoles cannot go, that is when streaming services will prove their worth and their place in the gaming community.

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When the old is new again

Finally the news is there; on December 3rd people from the later generation can finally see what the first PlayStation was like. You might think that there is no value in that, especially as the machine is there just before Christmas for $159. What is remarkable is the amount of games I had hoped to see and we will only get 20 games. But not to fret, the 20 games include Final Fantasy VII (not my favourite game), Metal Gear Solid, Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, Rayman, Resident Evil Director’s Cut, Syphon Filter and Tekken 3. Each of these titles would have been worthy of the full price, so to get them all is so worth it, every penny of it. There are other titles, but this is the cream of the crop and even as I was never an FFVII fan, it is for that generation the pinnacle of Final Fantasy, a claim made by many.

Some will state that the very first GTA is also a classic, for me it is merely to see how far the game evolved over 5 cycles. It goes further, even as there has been rustling in the weeds, there is still no official confirmation for the N-64 mini; you might think that this would push Nintendo across and even as we have seen certain patents to optionally revamped N-64 hardware, there is still no official confirmation.

For me it is more than merely a sentimental journey. It should be the momentum to open the eyes of any optional game designer on how far games had gotten three cycles ago. In this stage that we were merely stopped by resources and in the end we get to see that the lack of resources made the game designers a lot more creative in adapting technology to the max. Even as I irritatingly got confronted last night with the Far Cry failure and taking into account “Far Cry 5 is a game that takes excess as ethos, yet, in pursuing that goal of more-more-more, stretches itself so thin as to offer up nothing at all” (source: Vice), we need to contemplate when is more actually less in the end? In my case it is the stage of adding more and more in Far Cry 4 that got to me (trying to get a few more achievements by replaying the game). It is my personal believe that Ubisoft should give both devices to the game developers and see if they learn something from it. The demonic precision and challenge that is known as Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey is perhaps the most visible one. As puzzles go, I have never met anyone who without cheating and hacking got all 100. And even as I do not oppose people seeking the internet solutions, I have never met anyone who got all 100 in one play through; it might not even be possible. To get this on a system with 2 MB RAM and 1 MB VRAM, with a disc that stores 650MB that is the lesson right there. Now we do not want a copy of that game, but the ability to give something that is still revered 21 years later, that does count. I don’t expect Ubisoft, or many others to ever pull it off, yet does not also show our growing common lack of creativity?

Personally I thought Tenchu Z, not the greatest game, was still an awesome stealth game to play. The Xbox360 gave us a cool version of a 1998 game. Even as the score was a mere 56%, the fact that no one took that to the next level is a surprise. Even as the game had issues, it also had clear promise and direction towards a much better game. There are several reviews that have given since that Tenchu Z was underrated and I support that. It reflects back to the PS mini as we see (for all valid reasons) that Soul Edge and the Tombraider games might be missing, we do see an amazing classic Resident Evil Director’s Cut, that whilst the remake of Resident Evil 2 is about to launch, showing us what a dedicated fan can do when he gets his hands on a true classic. No matter how we view this, the first two set the bar high enough making it impossible to equal for several years and that took some doing. The remake is not merely a remaster; it gives new light to hardware what it can achieve when it is kicked to a higher level. Its application of torches (what the original did not do) as well as the challenge of limitation and choice pretty much made me shit my pants and for a video game to achieve that takes effort and dedication.

The danger is that someone merely makes a new version. I did not mind that, especially in the case of Loderunner (CBM64), or The Sentinel that when it got converted to PC, with music by John Carpenter himself, I was delighted to still feel the buzz of playing that game. Yet is it not time to add 20 years of games evolution and max out games that can be taken to the next stage? Even as we eagerly await the remake of System Shock (and hopefully System shock 2), we need to see that the older systems do have gems that still await their turn in getting a polishing and technological upgrades. I believe that Seven Cities of Gold (Amiga) could have all kinds of educational insights, not unlike the original SimCity did. The same could be said for Richard Garriott and a trilogy of his achievements (Ultima 3, 4 and 5), Ultima (6) and Ultima 7+7b in the third part. The power of one island with all games over time, a place 9 times the size of Skyrim with 6 main stories and close to a hundred side stories, it could optionally equal AC Odyssey in time to complete. We are already seeing an upcoming version of the Bards Tale, so the idea is not that novel, yet I see that the main players are still not looking into that direction, which is a shame. When a reviewer from PC Gamers gives you: “Three hours into the beta of The Bard’s Tale 4, I realized how late I’d stayed up puzzling my way through the labyrinth beneath a wizard’s castle“, you should be able to consider that these remasters and remakes are a clear golden path to good gaming and we all want good gaming. I personally believe that whilst we admire all the things Bethesda has done, I believe that it was The Witcher 3 that truly gave the RPG bar a nudge into a much higher direction and those who played it want a lot more than we had in the past. I believe that this is driving the players (and perhaps their desire to get Cyberpunk 2077 as soon as possible). I loved every moment of Bethesda RPG gaming and still do (after playing those games for well over 5000 hours), yet it missed a part (unintentionally), even as Bethesda was all about you shaping your character and the world around you, Project Red gave us Geralt of Rivia to play and the person that he is a pure blend of light and dark that we found overwhelmingly addictive. Project Red got the jackpot with that character and pretty much all the gamers want more of him, or perhaps better stated a taste of someone else like him.

So how can we evolve gaming? I do not believe it is better hardware; it never was about the hardware. When you consider the GameCube, it had 24MB RAM, 16MB of DRAM a 1.5GB RAM optical disc (30% of a DVD) and even today finding something that equals Metroid Prime (one and two) is pretty impossible. It is about the quality game and we need a new generation of game developers to open that gaming superhighway, and this is where the PS mini can open doors. You see Creativity is within a person, you can polish it, you can teach that person skills to tap into that creativity, yet when that person cannot tap into creativity, the best thing we can hope for is a new version of a spreadsheet program.

Limitations drives creativity, but it needs to be within that person. Here again we need to go to Ubisoft, because the game ‘With Honor‘ shows that Jason Vandenberghe has creativity and loads of it. It was not my game because I prefer to play alone, I am not a multiplayer gamer, and With Honor was all about multiplayer, which is fair enough. It might not have been the game for me, but I was pretty amazed with the game. We can Monday morning quarterback that game all we like, yet in the end it was a well-made game. Here too I believe that the 80% score was underrated (by close to 12%), and that is whilst I am no fan of multiplayer games.

I believe that Ubisoft is sitting on a hundred million dollars of underestimated or neglected potential and even as we accept that making games costs a lot of money, sitting on a chest worthy of funding a dozen games, a chest that is collecting dust seems like such a waste. Consider that Far Cry 5 81% could have easily added 10%, how much sales was lost because of that? In this I add parts of a list called ‘14 Ubisoft Video Games – Ranked From Worst to Best‘ and see what could have been done better.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity. There is no avoiding that title, the QA, the testing and the AI bugs were a joke. This game should not have been released before proper testing would have been done, but we have been here a few dozen times, so let’s move on.

Zombi (PS4 Edition). A game that was actually better on the WiiU, can we get any clearer, a decent idea was not properly set forward making it a joke. This went beyond testing, I can only speculate that it was never properly programmed and the original had loads of potential, for the limitations of the WiiU, the makers actually got a whole lot further, even as the random spawning had a few knockbacks of their own the end result on the PS4 was pretty much completely unacceptable.

Watch Dogs. I had this as a day one order (with the PS4 launch), so I was miffed. It went further in the game with programmed settings and a few other quirks (a lot of them) the game fell short in many ways (that is even beside the delay that outstretched any pregnancy), yet the concept was pretty good, I made the AC1 comparison that as an original it had potential and just like AC2, the game would make or break. Watchdogs two was weird in some way, but it was so much better, the second game made the franchise, so that was good. The first game had a good story, we all could relate to it, yet some parts were too awkward and it never got fixed or improved.

The Division. Again a multiplayer game, which was not my thing, yet the story line, was immersive and people around me really went for the game. So as we passed a few quirks and bugs (blocking the door being the most visible one), we see a game that in its first premiere has loads of potential, potential brought to light, yet these flaws were not deadly and that too is important to recognise. the two parts that Forbes gives us is “As excited as I am that The Division has matchmaking for every single activity, for daily missions, it’s a complete and utter disaster“, as well as “I mean it is literally bugged to all hell where you are lucky if you can even start a game, much less finish one”. They are both indicatory of larger failings and beta playtesting to a much larger extent might have shown the weakness, yet the biggest issue in these games will be hackers and cheaters. I do not mind that they are around, but when I get fleeced for everything I have, it becomes annoying really fast. Still it is a franchise with optional forward momentum, that too much be recognised.

Far Cry 3. We need to look at this, as it is quintessential the best Far Cry ever, the main adversary Vaas Montenegro (brilliantly voiced by Michael Mando) is amazing, the graphics are good, the stealth is stellar and the challenges are equally from out of this world. Chasing all these objects are well overboard (not in a good way) and the stage of cell towers and outposts are pretty amazing. the ballistics are a problem as I have never seen any tiger walk away from a .50 headshot let alone 2, but if that is as bad as it gets we have a winner here and that is exactly what it was, a winner. From this it was downhill, 4, Primal and 5 are nowhere the third puppy (neither were one and two for that matter) and even as 5 is a step forward in many directions, the game in the end was not a better end product. This ended as Vice gave us: “Far Cry 5 is a game that takes excess as ethos, yet, in pursuing that goal of more-more-more, stretches itself so thin as to offer up nothing at all” and they are right.

Assassin’s Creed II. The game that should be regarded as the franchise starter of the AC range is brilliant, even as there are a few issues; the game was so far forward from AC1 that we eagerly forgot about the flaws we saw. The game in every respect shows that it is the fortune maker for Yves Guillemot and his two baby brothers (Michael and Gerard). Even as AC Brotherhood was more of the same, it was still forward momentum in a few ways. These two games were the start of an addiction but also the end of the original push forward, in the end what came after was more of the same with too little forward momentum, It actually reflects TombRaider, which after the second one was trying to be too clever and ‘deceptive’ with twists, yet we never got something really new, just more and that would not change until the definitive version was released.

In the end we could also look at Splinter Cell and how that went not forward, but more and if you love stealth, you will love more, yet in blacklist the ball was dropped by too far and that is what hampered Ubisoft. This is seen when you consider that the ratings went from 94%, to 89%, to 85% and 84%. I would have thought that after the second rating alarms would have been raised, they might have been, but they did not work. It is this path that needs to be reflective in all this, because if we consider Watchdogs 3, Whatever AC comes next, the Division 2, Far Cry 6 and Hopefully another Splinter Cell, Ubisoft needs to consider on how to make the games actually better, not merely bigger, or give us more of the same. the story will be everything, yet the playability with have a massive weight on the vision handed to the players that is where a few dozen million Euros are hidden and Ubisoft might lose out on that; the amount of missed money represents well over 50 of my life time earnings, so I think that some of the people behind the players need to take a serious look on how to secure said optionally lost funds. I see it in another direction, if my mind can construct a virtual foundation of (an imaginative) Elder Scrolls VII within eight hours, how many opportunities did some designers lose by not truly investigate the projects they were working on? I might have been in games since 1984, but I know I am not the best, I have met the best (Peter Molyneux, Richard Garriott and Sid Meier) and I know they surpass me by a lot, yet I have the drop on some developers today and that saddens me. They should be running loops around me without breaking a sweat.

The gaming world is ready for new unique games and new franchises, even as some of the older games might point the way, we see that finding a new game, and actual new original game is a hard thing to do, it can only be done by a dreamer, a dreamer that others will listen too, an artist to give view to the dream, a programmer to set the stage and a writer to translate the dreams into stories, even as the writer and the dreamer are likely the same person, the place where the two acts are done is likely to be different and until that part is recognised, the making of any new 90%+ franchise will remain out of reach for all developers like Ubisoft. If you doubt that part, merely look at the history of a game called Lemmings. I tested it initially and I remember on how Psygnosis got to the game in the first place, so when you think that all good games are a calculated results of proper investigation, think again. A game released in 1991, whilst we still see today: “The best Amiga game of all time (2011)“, you better believe that artsy has everything to do with it. This is quite literally the shit that gamers live for, how else can you explain the desire after decades for a game like System Shock (or the remake of FFVII for that matter)?

If there is one part that must be told, than it would be the part that I never saw coming. For that we need to look at the Xbox360. I never knew the game, so I got caught off guard. I initially did not buy it as I was playing Bioshock 2 and awaiting both Fable 3 and New Vegas. So when I heard the score, I got curious. One gave it 90% the other 83%, this piqued my curiosity and it was not disappointed. They say that 97% liked this game and that should have been the rating. Mikael Kasurinen, Sam Lake, Mikko Rautalahti and Petri Järvilehto surpassed themselves and many game designers with Alan Wake. The game was everything we hope for and more, the setting of a mere danger by being in the dark was a direct original approach to our primal fear (even in games) and Alan Wake did use that to the max. It was an amazing stage of open world and level challenge all into one and your life does depend on the power of a battery here, so there was that to get worried about. Alan Wake also shown that the creative dreamer will always have the advantage over the stage of calculated new versions of a franchise. Even as Alan Wake might have that fear to deal with, the original was more challenging than many other developers were able to give us and Microsoft Studios actually created an instant classic on launch day, something not many game developers have ever achieved.

I never saw it coming, so I do not hold all the wisdoms, I will not even make such a claim even as the article might imply it. The fact that a game like Alan Wake could surprise me to such a degree is also the reason why I am still a gamer, just like a junkie hoping for its next fix of amazement. The nice thing here is that it is a lot cheaper than either Heroin or Cocaine, so there is that benefit for any gamer too.

We seem to chase the old to get a new version because of that feeling of amazement, which is good in one way (especially the owners of the IP), yet the lack of true new IP is also a worry for the gamers and getting the right developers and creating the right programmers is not about giving them all the resources, but to teach them how to overcome shortcomings in current architecture. It is not the programmes that maximises a system we need, it is the one who gets it done on a 75% system that is the one we need to get. Merely because that game will be lean, it will be mean and it will still transgress the borders that a seasoned programmer did not consider. to be able not to merely to make a stronger game, but to set a proper stage where replaying that game is just as rewarding as playing it the first time, that is the classic of tomorrow going home with a 95%+ rating and taking home the coffers of gold. This is what all the game developers need and some are in the process of getting there; it would be a shame if players like Ubisoft and EA games miss out because they were not willing, or able to go that distance.

And as a gamer as well as a dreamer, consider the game when you add AI in the mix, not the AI of the enemy, but the AI that you as the gamer get to shape. In this we need to consider an oldie like Sundog, Frozen Legacy by FTL Games (the maker of the legendary Dungeon Master and Oids). Now consider that the game starts with only you, but as you shape the AI, you can hand your navigation skills to an android and grow your crew. The game will only be as good as you are. As you grow the positions on the ship upgrade the ship and get a larger one. You will need to get more knowledge and only when you have one placement over a certain percentage an android can take over. You have to be the navigator, helmsman, the tactician and the engineer. You need to master one role after another, downloading your skill enhancements into the android and growing a crew, not programmed intelligence, but your game interactions that are transferred to the android. What game thought of that? Actually Epyx had a game called Chip Bits, yet I don’t think it ever made the light of day.

If such an addition is added to a game like Elite Dangerous when you upgrade from a 31 meter Eagle fighter to an 88 meter Python (see Image), how many hundreds of hours of gameplay would that get you? Elite Dangerous now has 30 playable ships and you have the option of ‘merely’ flying the ship, yet what extra will you get when you are adding functions and you have to repair the ship under combat conditions? A side that Sundog had to the minimum degree and with 1MB RAM the Atari ST did not get far, yet it gave us more than some games currently do, is that not weird either?

There have been so many games between 1984 (CBM-64) and 2005 (Xbox360), a timeline filled with gems, many of these gems could be the foundation of jewelry that is multifaceted, colourful and challenging in so many ways. Many of these are not merely remasters; they could be the foundation of new and optionally uniquely new IP.

In this, the CEO of Ubisoft might have stated it the best when he said: “There will be one more console generation and then after that, we will be streaming, all of us“, that might be true, so getting to new IP now makes perfect sense, in many ways. to do that in the streaming age is a dangerous move for a few reasons, mainly because the streaming power will not be with the gaming side of things, it will be with the telecom providers and there have been more than just a few indicators that this will start in the most rocky of ways, especially outside of metropolitan areas. I have had this issue a few times to a smaller degree, yet as we consider that this is 2 weeks old “Optus say it is congestion but can’t explain how you can get 100 mbs and then the next minute you have a dropout. They appear to be doing nothing as they can’t say how long it will take to fix or what they are doing to address the issue. Have been a customer for over 25 years but the last 6 months the service has been substandard“, I believe that this goes (a lot) further than just one provider, congestion is increasing all over the global field and until some telecom providers (multiple providers) get their house in order and up their game, streaming games will become more and more hazardous over time, it will take years to get this environment a lot better and 5G is not making it any easier. So the next generation of consoles is the best time to maximise IP, because the IP after that will end up not having as much value as the blame game between telecom providers and game developers are likely to flare and they will flare up all over the planet (or is that this planet).

It goes beyond mere gaming. You see The Network Congestion 2030 project, launched in 2009 (for airports), was designed as a two phased approach towards solving congestion issues, yet when we see that approach in the Netherlands we see “Unlike the Telecommunications Act, the Regulation furthermore allows Internet Service Providers to take reasonable traffic management measures, e.g. to avoid imminent network congestion. Such measures must be transparent, non-discriminatory and proportionate, and may not be based on commercial considerations. The Telecommunications Acts allows Internet Service Providers to intervene in the Internet data flows only if a data accumulation must be controlled. A frequent criticism of the Regulation is that it is difficult to monitor traffic management measures aimed at avoiding imminent congestion, which may give rise to abuse. An example in the Netherlands related to network congestion is the ACM’s decision of 2013 to put an end to its investigation of the restriction of free Internet in trains by T-Mobile. ACM concluded that the blocking of certain internet services by T-Mobile was permissible to prevent “traffic jams” on the network“, with the mention of ‘may not be based on commercial considerations‘ we see the optional impact on gamers, because these systems have not been tested with millions of gamers streaming, in European terms even tens of millions. Netflix had a dramatic growth (after this entire issue started) and as gamers do the same added to that same construction devoid of much larger expansions the impact will be there and it will be there very visible; throttling streams will make them collapse and that is where we see that down the track the impact on gamers will be much larger and they are for now, not even considered.

So as the old becomes new, we see new challenges and other obstacles that are now not in the hands of non-gamers, but they will be the moment that streaming congestion becomes the daily reality of every gamer.

So the need of being able to be creative and set the stage for a 75% resource solution would at that point become crystal clear at the moment the situation emerges. Merely a new iteration of complications to solve in addition of all the other corrections needed. At that point to have a much better QA will be essential for the IP holder not to go bust almost overnight. You merely have to consider the Division launch day crash and the idea that this could happen once a month at the very least in that new setting. It will be something that is not the fault of Ubisoft, not the fault of the designers, it will merely be the impact of congestion and the telecom provider will mention that they are sorry, but it is out of their hands and they cannot explain to you why it happened.

Oh and this issue is as stated a global one, in the end you cannot blame the game makers when the issue is that your gaming evening depends on something like the Comcast outage map. When you see: “Comcast/Xfinity is reporting a widespread outage in the south suburbs” and you miss out on the season challenges of whichever game you are playing because of: “An aerial pole in Harvey was reportedly struck, damaging 288 cables, according to Comcast officials. The outage is expected to last until approximately 3:30 pm” and you can forget about gaming that day, that is when you get the first moment of irritation with streaming. In single play you can still get your gaming on, games like Elite Dangerous fall away that day and starting Fortnite becomes a foregone illusion. When all games become a streaming experience you might in the end only end up having Minecraft in offline mode available, a great game, yet when it is the only game it is more likely than not the evening you never banked on, or hoped for.

 

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