Tag Archives: Populous

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 You see in the old games it was about one person, one setting you and your antagonist, but in this day and age it is outdated, computers have grown more powerful, have grown towards multi creatures, and in all this we merely think of the old god the three, then we get Hestia, Demeter,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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Alternative income

It seems that I hate Bethesda, I do not, I am not happy that they are part of Microsoft now, but that was their right. It is Microsoft I do not trust. So as I was playing (yet again) Fallout Shelter, we need to see how close to perfect that game is and it is a free game. The optionally dropped the ball on two issues, maybe three if they played their cards right, but that was their choice, gamer ended up with a near perfect version of gaming and that is what we all wanted (even though I would have paid $5-$15 for the game). Yet the game is not new, it is innovative adjusted, the origins of this setting goes back to Dungeon Keeper (1997), we tend to forget these little details. And when I say ‘innovate’ Bethesda truly did that to the game and their game rocks. 

It did however made me consider the stage and how it could be adapted. There was a Westworld edition, I had only heard about it, I never played it. The game was too much of a copy. Yet the setting of Dungeon keeper is one I tend to circle back to. It is the origin of that game that drives my thoughts. There is no advantage setting this to a larger Bethesda stage, Bethesda already owns it, but perhaps there are options in the Ultima stage (Richard Garriott), there could be a drive  through Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5, there are plenty of options, but it is the drive of creation, with a little grasp of pragmatism (perhaps 1-3 optional micro transactions) that would make it work. The first thing is not the game, it is understanding the drive of the gamer, from that point we can move on to see what optional franchise has the larger cluster. We can chose any game, but if it has only 20 fans, the drive to a population large enough to make it work is one that we have to surpass and greed driven people always want revenue now (not me though). There are the protected franchises (Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings) that had its own barriers. There are less known franchises (Ultima) that has dedicated protectors, so we can align ourselves with a protector, or find IP that is no longer protected (which tends to take time). I stated it before and will do so again, on the Amiga Millennium 2.2 had close to all we need, so how to make that a success? To do that you need to understand the mechanics of the game. We can work with clocks, the free game only allows a clock speed of 4 and 5 skip days per day, when you buy anything, even once you get the option of clock speed 8 and that can be avoided by a one time payment of $4 giving you direct access to 16 times the speed and unlimited skips, considering that it takes up 235 days to fly to Uranus (I had to allow for that pun), we see a game that could show us optional revenue. Then there is the stage of the arcade, change your mobile into an arcade machine, play the old games for $0.99 and it will keep a track of up to 3 games, for $4 you can add 10 slots and every month another game is released, another of the classic games that can be played, the amounts of fathers that spend a fortune in quarters can now play their favourite game (optionally) for a mere $0.99, how is that not a guaranteed drive? And the nice part is that dozens of these games were never IP protected, it was not an issue in those days. 

There is a whole world out there ready for the visionary programmer to dig into, covid be damned. 

And when we see that some older games are almost forgotten (Paradroid, Boulder Dash, Spy vs Spy,  Joust, and not to forget Theme Hospital), we tend to think as what is old is useless, but there are real diamonds there. I still believe that a proper set Magic Carpet could do really well on consoles (no micro transactions), optionally mobiles could people forget their destinations when they get sucked into Populous, as such I wonder why the people at Electronic Arts are not awake. Another larger player used to be Epyx, and I cannot fathom why a game like Chip-bits, never was rereleased when the systems grew up, there are other players like Laser Squad, that might have gotten right what a legendary game like X-Com missed when they relaunched. And when the Rock (Dwayne Johnson) relaunched the game as a movie, no one considered that Arcade classic was fun to play and relaunching it might have been an option? I am not sure if there were IP’s in place and who owned it, but it seems that the owners did not move on the IP, as such I merely wonder why. 

As for the number one question you all have, why am I not doing it? The answer is simple. I am not a programmer and I am ready with my IP, but those with the $$$ (or £££) haven’t reacted yet, but that does not stop my mind of remaining creative and if it is a win for the gamers, it is a win for all of us. Life at times is that simple. I know my strengths, I also know my weaknesses and limitations, the latter two you tend to avoid for obvious reasons. Well, it is time to fee the inner person with a shepherds pie, I am feeling peckish!

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Jealousy

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

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

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

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

 

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Bazynga!

There are many thoughts and phrases we can use, most of us will use the term ‘told you so’ in regards to a certain former Microsoft person. I am not like that, reasoning in this case is that I do not really know Don Mattrick. Many gamers saw the acts and choices voiced by Don Mattrick before the Xbox One was released and these acts almost drowned the console long before it was released. Now, I asked myself more than once, why he went this way, and I am not convinced that a few members of the Microsoft board pushed him into that direction. The problem was that these members have absolutely ZERO concept on what a gamer is, moreover, I feel certain that the mere concept of the dimension of a gamer is a pure alien concept to these BI Based Excel readers, so it all seemed like Don got fed to the sharks and after that got thrown into the Piranha pool and ended up in a bad situation, when the board members realised the error of their thoughtlessness, he got ‘promoted’ to CEO of Zynga. Now, all this is pure conjecture on my side, but I feel decently certain that I am not that far of the mark.

It must be said that I remained loyal to my Sony consoles (although I will never stop loving my Xbox 360). The Xbox One has a few flaws, mainly short-sighted ones. I will not bore you with resolution, although that could be regarded as a factor. My issue was twofold. One, the mandatory push to online acts (Sony has a similar flaw as your achievements can ONLY be seen when you are online). The system has a few additional glitches Sony does not have, but my biggest issue was the short-sightedness of the drive. You see, Sony offers the same drive size, but they let you upgrade if need be, so the ‘real’ gamers upgraded their systems on zero hour, so they start the system with a 1-2Tb system, which means as long there is no crash, the system will always have space for whatever you need. Many are willing to pay the additional $125 to get that maximisation. Microsoft failed because for $15 (yes, fifteen dollars) the system could have been a 1Tb system from day one. The difference between a 500 Gb and a 1Tb drive is a mere 15 dollars. What a silly level of short-sightedness, it would have satisfied 90% of the gamers. This is part of the message Don Mattrick ended up delivering and the fact that drives cannot be upgraded was not a good thing.

The games were another matter. The initial game release was as shallow as it gets, Ryse showed promise, but if you watch the YouTube movie (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-e1MQnh3V0) you will get three clear impressions.

  1. The movies look really good, the storyline is an excellent one
  2. Too much of the game is repetitive, slamming your shield and diving out of the way
  3. ‘Second wind’ rejuvenation in boss fights

This does NOT make for a good game.

So what had all the possibilities of legendary status, became a below average game. Delays form games like Watchdogs did not help either. The big issues that makes a console were all substandard, so Don Mattrick got the short end of the stick.

In this setting he got placed as CEO of Zynga. Now Mark Pincus is back. It is the subtitle of the article that makes for the issue in play. “Farmville and Words with Friends publisher still trying to recapture past glories, with new (old) boss saying ‘we need to get back to being the leader in mobile data and analytics’“. I do not disagree, but Zynga already had issues as Pincus went on a nice sabbatical. That part is given in the quote: “Zynga reported revenues of $690.4m (£467m) in 2014, compared to Candy Crush maker King’s $2.26bn (£1.5bn) and Clash of Clans publisher Supercell’s $1.67bn (£1.13bn)“.

 

The part not shown is that Farmville was a really fun game to play, but Zynga became all about harassment, harassment of friends and mails to get your friends to send you stuff. That is not the best way to remain on friendly terms with your friends, especially as they might not be into gaming. So those who play a lost hour on games like Farmville, Fishville, Mafia Wars, Cityville, Cafe World and Hidden Chronicles (to name but a few) resulted in people ‘losing’ friends and the aggravation of waiting forever for the parts, or spending way too much to skip of to ‘purchase’ those parts was for many reason to call it a day and to move to other grounds (perhaps the loss of 60% of the gamers that Zynga had, was exactly for this reason). Candy Crush and likeminded titles work on other principles and they have been very successful. I saw through that ploy too and I am not willing to spend on it (in the way King wanted us to). I would have been willing to purchase the game for $20 on my mobile. Providing that the special candy would reset with a decent counter, so that the challenge could remain. I reckon that most of those games would be excellent games on a Nintendo, so instead of ‘harassing’ others, the Nintendo street pass solution could be used. In that case the game could be an instant hit and Zynga ends up catching 30-50 per player (but only once). I still believe that this could be a path Zynga could walk with those games. 40 million users could amount to well over 100 million dollars in revenue for one game, which is not that bad.

The quote “Pincus added that he intends to make Zynga’s famous focus on data and analytics a key part of its continued comeback strategy” might be a possibility, but in which direction? Truly new games, added challenges for all games or another ploy in marketing growth? Because growth in players would imply growth of revenue, but that only happens when people fell relaxed spending a few extra dollars. It is often not the dollars spend, it is the value for money that pulls players across. I personally feel that spending a few dollars, not when I have to, but when the tactical advantage, or the long term benefit is shown. That part was clearly shown in games like Castle age, where I spend like $10 in 2009, which gave me some powerful items which changed the curve completely (in my favour), meaning that the strength going from level 4 to level 15 in one moment had long term benefits. The same can be said for Elemental Kingdoms. The fact that both games are completely different has no bearing. Elemental Kingdoms is a truly innovative Customisable card game, which can be played on a tablet. However, unlike Magic, these cards, as they are virtual can actually ‘evolve’ in more powerful cards. By spending ‘coins’ you get from winning games. The artwork is excellent and the game is a decent challenge. A last example is Book of Heroes (Android/IOS) where a mere $5 doubles the power of the game. Those approaches makes many dash out the dollars for the pleasure. Consider again those 40 million players, that $5 could constitute 200 million, an amount that is almost guaranteed to work. It is when the power and the fun of the game hits us that many players would be eager to add a few more dollars to the counter. That part had been absent in Zynga games.

So, will Zynga be able to turn the tables around? There is no real way to say. What looks nice, still needs to be playable. If there is one lesson that has been pounded on these developers is shown by games like Minecraft and Blockheads (IOS). These sandbox games are the type of games that players find more entertaining and they are enjoyed a lot longer. The question becomes where could Zynga go then?

I reckon that the past (CBM Amiga) shows several games (and possible directions for Zynga), 20 years old but every bit as playable and could be a new iteration of gaming. RPG and Sandbox games have a future and no one seems to be tapping into that source. Consider some of the games from Amiga (and in one case CBM-64) where we get value for gaming and where Zynga could still make money too. Those are options for the future. Now you wonder why I mentioned those two platforms. Well, simple. Many of these games were excellent in addiction, challenge and fun. The tablet and Mobile phone is more powerful than those systems ever were, so they are likely to be easily implemented in new technology that beside the fact that most of these games can be found on what is called ‘abandonware’. I am on one side in favour of this happening, on the other side do not want to trespass on someone’s copyrights. But when we consider that today’s generation could be equally excited to play Dungeon Master, 7 cities of gold, System Shock, Populous, Lemmings and a league of other games is just a good thing. Some of these games should never be forgotten.

So how does this hit back on Zynga? I think that they can look at these achievements and look at new ways to appease the coin of the mobile player. I do not think that the vision of Mark Pincus is wrong, I just think that Zynga needs to cast a wider net, because it is partially about: ‘he intends to make Zynga’s famous focus on data and analytics a key part of its continued comeback strategy’, but for a much larger part it is to make the game about gaming and gamers, not just about the maximised profit of a business plan, because when the player catches that scent, they’ll permanently move away quite quickly (but that might be just my view on the matter).

 

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