Tag Archives: Richard Garriott

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 You see in the old games it was about one person, one setting you and your antagonist, but in this day and age it is outdated, computers have grown more powerful, have grown towards multi creatures, and in all this we merely think of the old god the three, then we get Hestia,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

Yup, the news only just hit the walls of the internet and a new stage is already underway. This is not about slamming Bethesda, they made a decision and I reckon that 7 billion plus is a nice looking bandaid, but now the house is falling over, because the stage of gaming is set into another realm. Do you think that Sony will like the age of dependancy of Microsoft? So as Bethesda becomes a Microsoft institution, Sony will have to look in other directions. Yes there are good RPG’s out there. There is the Witcher and Cyberpunk is about to arrive, yet the stage is largely untapped and now we see that there is a larger need for an exclusive option for Sony. Lucky for them there might be an option. Richard Garriott created the Ultima series in the early 80’s, yet it was in 1985 that Ultima IV: Quest of the avatar was born. It would take RPG’s to new heights, heights that would not be equalled for well over a decade. Now consider a first person RPG (like Skyrim) with its own rules, its own places, and a storyline that can surpass most RPG games out there. On a map that would be close to 6,000% larger than Skyrim. The map of Britannia (Ultima 1-9) was almost completely designed by the time Ultima 4 was there and the game only got better. The stage would add new dimensions to RPG gaming, something that could be done again in a 1st person setting. It would add new directions in gaming from the original setting, something that had not been done for some time. And then there is the story. Even now I see new stages in shrines and stones that the original never allowed for. There is the stage to combine Ultima 4 and 5 in a much larger setting in sequence in one game. It implies a gaming size that surpasses most RPG’s in hours and way the game is played. The Ultima series set a larger stage with the use of ships and that could remain, so there would be more in the game and more challenges. The largest is to stay original to the Ultima formula and not be swayed towards more of the same. A game that becomes a journey, a journey that we have not seen before and in this Bethesda opened the door by becoming part of Microsoft. I hope that they will remain on the Sony systems, but there is every indication that Microsoft will take a time advantage and use Bethesda games to push people towards their console. That move makes sense because there are plenty of Elder Scrolls and Fallout fans, but that also means that Sony now has the task to protect its core gamers by offering an exclusive brand of their own and that is where we see the value of Richard Garriott optionally go through the roof. I believe that for Richard Microsoft buying Bethesda might seem like the opportunity of a lifetime. No matter how Bethesda phrases it, they are quoted to have stated “all future Bethesda games will release on both Xbox and PC, but their appearance on other consoles will be determined on a “game by game basis”” this is what I would call a dicey setting for Sony, but not all is lost, they could look towards what was and redesign it to the new. Ultima is one of the most likely franchises and the stage is much larger than you think. Microsoft has paid over $7 billion for Bethesda (actually they bought Zenimax Media, the parent of Bethesda), it is a clever move, but if Sony counters it with new RPG, that price might be a little sour, especially if the RPG marketshare brittles away from Bethesda. Microsoft ends up in a stage where the overpaid for a brand that is well worth it, but as Sony counters what was not set to value, the value of Zenimax media will take a bit of a dive. So not only is there an alternative, my mind has already seen the optional design for an adjusted RPG game that would be every bit as satisfying as the original, more so when you consider that the original was never first person, but in my mind I added a stage that the Elder Scrolls never possessed. It is not merely good news for Richard Garriott, it would also be great news for Iolo, Jaana, Julia, Dupre, Geoffrey, Mariah, Katrina and Shamino. They can dust off the weapons they hung up in 1992. And the world would optionally see them back into action as early as 2022 if Sony gets a deal with Richard Garriott sober rather than later, because Microsoft was sly in getting the deal, but was it a clever move? I am not so sure about that. If we are to believe some market research results, only one in three opted for Microsoft, the rest went the way of Sony. I had issues with the results as it was against two systems and Nintendo was left outside the choice, I believe that the Microsoft numbers are not that great to begin with, but that is pure speculation from my side. Will I be proven correctly? 

I actually do not know, but the Bethesda move has set a level of shock on me, that is true enough, yet I have made up my mind, I will not get the Xbox, and if that leaves me without future fallout and elder scrolls games, so be it, yet it took me no more than an hour to set an optional new stage of Ultima, so there is always an option, there will always be RPG, the question becomes will Bethesda be part of that? I actually do not know, there is too much unknown at present.

 

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Project One Fiver

We all have the setting in our heads, we have an idea and we partially roll with it. It is there where we get the problem, some see problems, some do not. I am the one in category two, yet I also have flaws and they show themselves rather quickly. I am the entire opposite of those, I am one who quits as the challenge is gone. It is a basic law, it is stupid, but in 1989 there was a different stage, the BS artists were in charge, I was new, I knew nothing, but I had my 

Nantucket clipper compiler and a book on how to program and within weeks I was ahead of a lot of people.  I was asking container programs, admin programs and I loved it. But it came with an inner flaw. Someone in the cinema world asked me for a solution, I was not thinking like a consultant, because I was self trained, I rejected the offer, not because it was hard, but because it was easy. I had in my mind set the stage and developed the solution in an hour, I saw what was needed and my mind set the stage in minutes. The shows, the cinema’s the date’s, it was the simplest application of Clipper and dBase 3, as such I saw the premise that I was doing all the work and getting almost nothing for it, because people would state that it was too easy, and in those days the rent was due. I leaned a lot over time and I went in a different direction, but the ability to see solutions remained in me. 

So as I am watching the Battlestar Galactica series (again) an idea came to mind, what if the premise of the RPG is changed? What if the game is not one game, but 15? All linked into one massive game, into one large game that is in part driven by the parameters of other gamers? Not just that, but your achievements will be an added parameter for them? Over time your stage will be the overbearing one, but you are not one voice, you are one of a choir and over time you are the choir. As far as I can tell, that has never been done before and even as my idea grasps some idea’s from others, the stage of philosophical drives, the stage of a limited stage is not new. Other games programmed around it, I am considering it to be part of the game. And over that stage we see the ability where we intersect in a much larger stage. Yes, it sounds confusing, me talking about stages, about parameters and about requirements, yet games are like that and we fill in the blanks in stages, the stage of where we play, the stage of where a character is and we have the ability to set a much larger field of play in a  game that could set a new record in gaming in the next console war. 

A stage that has several planets, a stage that is set where we have a formula that creates 15 planets, and you have no idea where you are. This is not for the weak of mind, or those walking around in Minecraft, this is Elder Scrolls Oblivion on a scale that is 15 planets big and we do not set out to gain a flag or to kill a monster, we set out to create a dynasty and that is never a clear sailing premise. I see the solutions that other greats did before this, There was the Ultima series an RPG by Richard Garriott that is something that still drives me and why it was never refurbished in a new coat with new graphics still puzzles me. But they were not alone, there were others, to some perhaps forgotten, but with gems in its coding. Hopefully we will see a remade System Shock soon, yet it was not alone. Whist Ubisoft is all about triggers and respawning enemies, the stage is out there for a different kind of RPG, I believe that the PS5 will open up more options and different sets of games. The problems is not the game, the issue will become where is the IP, who owns it and how can it be staged in different ways. We see series like Westworld and we wonder how it can become a game. There was someone with the Westworld Shelter approach, I never saw it, I would have liked to have seen it, but it was removed before I could see it. This is not a random phrase, the question becomes that in the age we face, sources are limited, so how can we make a game enjoyable, repayable and original without it becoming a mesh of Minecraft and Animal Crossing? Whilst Ubisoft showed us how not to do it, w still need to do it and we need to do it right. It needs a hand that looks outside of what coders look at. We need to consider the creation of a strategy guide before there is a game, so that we can ensure the long term existence of the created game. And to be there for the long term you need to look with different eyes, to see in a different scope. I saw the option of scope when I created the foundation for Elder Scrolls VIII: Restoration, I saw the option of views when I considered Watch Dogs IV: Refugee, it also gave me the idea to set different dimensionalities (there was was an example in System Shock), yet the combining of elements is a much larger stage and it is a different stage. It is not like we go to the theatre, it is the entire block around the building that houses the theatre as well. That is the stage we work from, because when the surroundings are there, that is when we give size to the stage in that theatre. It has always been that way, yet in the past the computers could not deal with that stage, computers are finally catching on and even as the remade Pirates (Sid Meier) was betrayed into a diminished stage and labeled Assassins Creed: Black Flag, does not mean that it was so, we had no reason to give up on a time honoured classic, yet that stage was burned before it flourished. I wonder what we can get done when that is ignored in a future project, what happens, when we have a planet making program like we see in No Mans Sky and we prepare 15 codes, 15 places with enhanced detailing, 15 stages where the plant is the stage, where we are a person in a much larger field and we get to set up the stage of history, I reckon that it has never been done before, not to this degree and not to this reference of options, a stage much larger than ever before and to the degree where we at the end of 200-600 hours want to play it again, so far only Bethesda and CD Project Red have come anywhere near that stage, there is off course GTA5, no one denies that, so out of 2300 game developers, only 3 only got that near, would it not be the right challenge to be one of 10 ever to get that near? It is not a hard question to answer. 

I’ll let you simmer on the question and the questions that will be in your mind at this time.

 

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Premise towards boredom

Yesterday’s article in the Guardian by Alex Hern is a bit of a wakeup call. When I re-read the article I start to agree with him more and more. As a gamer, RPG’s have been my life. This started in the old days with the Ultima series by Richard Garriott on CBM-64. The first full game experience was the third installment. On the CBM-64, the quality was a little less then you see now, but the entire experience was amazing. This game made me addicted to RPG’s for life and Ultima 4 made matters worse for me. I was lucky; some RPG’s will never have the amazing depth that the Ultima series offered, not for at least a decade.

Yet Alex asks the important question: ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?‘ When I sat down I did exactly that, try to avoid predictability. In my version of TESVI I was at all times considering replayability. As such the creation required sidesteps, not to be reflectively repetitive, but to set the stage of 100 missions at least twice over, so you did not play two versions of a mission, but two very different missions. It allowed for the market value of a game to remain high, whilst at the same time give other players something to think about. I had been there. I must have played Oblivion 3-4 times all the way through the end. Yet at heart it remained repetitive, so my design was the thwart that nuisance. Skyrim was a little the same in many ways, and Skyrim even as it outperformed Oblivion by a large amount had a few issues, some slightly terminal, but with a game that large it is almost unavoidable (I did say almost). So if we open The Elder Scrolls to number 6 a lot more was required, and as I set the model in play (not the one Bethesda is releasing) I remained dedicated to what Bethesda will offer, because so far they have not disappointed me (this is NOT about Fallout 76). So as we see the push towards the outer Worlds, we are given: “In this world, where mega corporations are starting to take over alien planets, you can act like a hero, an opportunistic mercenary, or a total idiot. The writing is sharp, snappy and funny, the world exciting and vibrant, and there’s a classic New Vegas interplay between factions of characters, any of whom the player can help or hinder“, I am not questioning, not judging, and not placing a verdict. I await the final result that is open for review and purchase. The writer (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2019/aug/20/from-cyberpunk-2077-to-the-outer-worlds-are-role-playing-games-getting-too-predictable) is giving us a lot more. So when the article ends with: “But their genre needs its Breath of the Wild moment: an outsider to toss out the conventions, and build something beautiful from what is left. Surely choosing between shooting, stealthing or sweet talking can’t be the only options that the next generation of virtual worlds have to offer“, I find myself agreeing with him to the part that games (at times) need more. Yet is that in part the limitation of an RPG? What if we take another look at the Ultima range? Ultima 7, the Black Gate is one of the few games that EVER received a 100% rating from me (on PC). In that time (1992) that game surpassed anything else, and others never came close to what The Black Gate offered. So when we see the part ‘shooting, stealthing or sweet talking‘, we need to consider alternatives. There was the option of getting a job (so not shooting and killing), stealing (stealthily not working), and Retail industry (not sweet talking). In part we saw the retail on Skyrim by selling (just like in Oblivion), in Fable 2 and 3 we see the option of doing jobs and gaining money that way, even buying the place and getting the revenue, so we have seen it (almost) all. Yet what happens, when the world is truly a lot larger? What happens when your impact is seen as one of thousands creating commerce and in that way create price fluctuations? What if the game needs to be set to the larger premise? To get one part right, and through the linked limitations create a new system of balances to get the whole environment correct? Make the game impact seen through the changes that not just you create. As a member of the thieves guild you can never be a companion, or with the fighter guild or the Mages guild. So what happens when we take a much larger bite out of the apple of gaming and actually set the apple to be an actual much larger play of impact? The apple of knowledge (Eden), the golden apple (Olympus) and the apple of immortality (Asgard), set the stage where you can merely choose one of them, creating a tripod where one leg is rigid and the other two vary to create some form of balance.

What if one choice demolishes the others and through that path offer 300% more? There is still the challenge of making all missions decently unique and challenging, and if you realise that the Skyrim guide is over 1100 pages, we are facing a serious clambake, not a mere picnic. It was the largest stage setting, so whatever I considered to be the design of TESVI, needed to be able to surpass that, and I mean by no less than 20%.

Now, this does not mean that boredom will not set in, the biggest issue with any RPG is the danger of grinding, and preventing that is a first. Most games have become decently adept in minimising that risk, yet it is not zero, even my version would not have zero grinding, so the need to remain long term appealing is essential. The game does not stop there. Now that the gamers soon get Google and Apple with streaming gaming, the game changes even more and finding original content in any RPG game is the essential search for every gaming junk (I am proudly part of that family), so basically the ante is upped by a fair bit. It becomes even more impressing as I look to more challenge and the Skyrim guide has 350 quests, which implies that in my book, I will need close to 800 missions to keep head of the curve and in all this, anyone getting the range of 800 quests is less interactive in what we see and the mountain of work we look up to. It also requires very different IP to continue on a higher level of gaming.
The second level of grinding is often the places where things are found. In many situations we needed to get to the same places (shouts) and we needed to find essential hardware, however if the word wall did not contain Kyne’s Peace, but a random shout? In addition, what happens when you influence the entire game by making another choice as to where the Fighters Guild, the Thieves Guild, the Dark Brotherhood and the clan of Minimarco is placed (Necromancers), more important when you shape the game as you play and the impact is seen on a larger scale. A stage where the trade route from Skingrad, via Arenthia, to Riverhold, Orcrest, Rimmen and Bravil takes another step as the Fighters guild is placed in Riverhold and not in Rimmen, these are all choices that shape a world you live in. Consider the real (non-virtual) world if not Brussels, but Paris had become the centre of the EU, it would massively impact Belgium economy negatively and France’s economy positively, the direct aftermath is that living in Paris would be almost impossible, cause and effect in play. That same setting might be applied to gaming. Where the aggregation of the lowest and highest 1,000 gamers sets the parameters of your RPG game. a game not set in stone, but in motion as 2,000 players are not set to the average, but on the outliers of the high and the low players, a game that is shaped by all as the economic footprint changes. Yet to prevent deal seekers, we make time a much more definite in any RPG game.

As the measure evolves over time, other players become part of the low and the lower high end. A game now in flux, no longer rigid and confined. Add to that that they all might have issues on some of the resurrection choices and we get an entirely new path towards gaming. Boredom can only start to set in when the game is fixed, so we start by setting change to the game itself. A second choice is to add a management part, not just overall, but a specific super large quest, where you cannot complete the quest, but you provide the options for the quest. I can no longer sneak in like William Tell grasping apples, now we create a workforce working the field and still we are involved to maximise what is possible. Yes, we need virtual worlds that have more and differences to offer, but the best option is allowing evolution in ways that we cannot set, we might be able to influence them towards 6%, impacting but not overwhelming. That too allows for a game to be enjoyed again and again. That is the kind of RPG all RPG players want and yet up to now, no one delivered that option, it is surprising and perhaps it will be the cornerstone of any RPG, the amount that cannot be predicted, for all those coming from the very bottom of the maze and interesting challenge to face.

For now we await The Outer Worlds and Cyberpunk 2077 to make it into the family of RPG fanatics, yet we too await the next Elder Scrolls, and who know, perhaps my idea makes it into The Elder Scrolls VII, as a gamer I can only hope to be given the chance to change the game for thousands of RPG lovers in a new never seen before direction. Even as I accept that this is almost not possible and I would settle for a ‘novel’ place in new original gaming, we need to see that it all has been done before, well, it almost all has been done before. Yet so far, the idea’s I had have not popped up anywhere, so I am sitting pretty for now.

I actually do not care whether someone else finds them and implements them; it means new and original gaming, the ultimate rush for an RPG gamer, preferably additions done to a game that the gamer loves. So Alex Hern is correct and the first step in avoiding all this is to make sure that we take a non Ubisoft approach to gaming, I have faith that Bethesda can do that, they might have missed the ball with Fallout 76, but still, they took it in a direction that had not been done before. Let’s not forget that before Nintendo gave us the Switch, we were given the WiiU. Everyone gets to have a bad day and when we realise that Bethesda have given us winners from 2002 onwards, over a dozen clear winners in 16 years, the existence of one less popular title (Fallout 76) with so many winners is not an issue at all, in Bethesda we trust, the rest can take a number and await their turn with the global RPG population.

 

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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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The sting of history

There was an interesting article on the BBC (at http://www.bbc.com/news/business-43656378) a few days ago. I missed it initially as I tend to not dig too deep into the BBC past the breaking news points at times. Yet there it was, staring at me and I thought it was rather funny. You see ‘Google should not be in business of war, say employees‘, which is fair enough. Apart from the issue of them not being too great at waging war and roughing it out, it makes perfect sense to stay away from war. Yet is that possible? You see, the quote is funny when you see ‘No military projects‘, whilst we are all aware that the internet itself is an invention of DARPA, who came up with it as a solution that addressed “A network of such [computers], connected to one another by wide-band communication lines [which provided] the functions of present-day libraries together with anticipated advances in information storage and retrieval and [other] symbiotic functions“, which let to ARPANET and became the Internet. So now that the cat is out of the bag, we can continue. The objection they give is fair enough. When you are an engineer who is destined to create a world where everyone communicates to one another, the last thing you want to see is “Project Maven involves using artificial intelligence to improve the precision of military drone strikes“. I am not sure if Google could achieve it, but the goal is clear and so is the objection. The BBC article show merely one side, when we go to the source itself (at https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1254719/project-maven-to-deploy-computer-algorithms-to-war-zone-by-years-end/), in this I saw the words from Marine Corps Colonel Drew Cukor: “Cukor described an algorithm as about 75 lines of Python code “placed inside a larger software-hardware container.” He said the immediate focus is 38 classes of objects that represent the kinds of things the department needs to detect, especially in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria“. You see, I think he has been talking to the wrong people. Perhaps you remember the project SETI screensaver. “In May 1999 the University of California launched SETI@Home. SETI stands for the” Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence,” Originally thought that it could at best recruit only a thousand or so participants, more than a million people actually signed up on the day and in the process overwhelmed the meager desktop PC that was set aside for this project“, I remember it because I was one of them. It is in that trend that “SETI@Home was built around the idea that people with personal computers who often leave them to do something else and then just let the screensaver run are actually wasting good computing resources. This was a good thing, as these ‘idle’ moments can actually be used to process the large amount of data that SETI collects from the galaxy” (source: Manilla Times), they were right. The design was brilliant and simple and it worked better than even the SETI people thought it would, but here we now see the application, where any android (OK, IOS too) device created after 2016 is pretty much a supercomputer at rest. You see, Drew Cukor is trying to look where he needs to look, it is a ‘flaw’ he has as well as the bulk of all the military. You see, when you look for a target that is 1 in 10,000, so he needs to hit the 0.01% mark. This is his choice and that is what he needs to do, I am merely stating that by figuring out where NOT to look, I am upping his chances. If I can set the premise of illuminating 7,500 false potential in a few seconds, his job went from a 0.01% chance to 0.04%, making his work 25 times easier and optionally faster. Perhaps the change could eliminate 8,500 or even 9,000 flags. Now we are talking the chances and the time frame we need. You see, it is the memo of Bob Work that does remain an issue. I disagree with “As numerous studies have made clear, the department of defense must integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning more effectively across operations to maintain advantages over increasingly capable adversaries and competitors,“. The clear distinction is that those people tend to not rely on a smartphone, they rely on a simple Nokia 2100 burner phone and as such, there will be a complete absence of data, or will there be? As I see it, to tackle that, you need to be able to engage is what might be regarded as a ‘Snippet War‘, a war based on (a lot of) ‘small pieces of data or brief extracts‘. It is in one part cell tower connection patterns, it is in one part tracking IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) codes and a part of sim switching. It is a jumble of patterns and normally getting anything done will be insane. Now what happens when we connect 100 supercomputers to one cell tower and mine all available tags? What happens when we can disseminate these packages and let all those supercomputers do the job? Merely 100 smart phones or even 1,000 smart phones per cell tower. At that point the war changes, because now we have an optional setting where on the spot data is offered in real time. Some might call it ‘the wet dream’ of Marine Corps Col. Drew Cukor and he was not ever aware that he was allowed to adult dream to that degree on the job, was he?

Even as these people are throwing AI around like it is Steven Spielberg’s chance to make a Kubrick movie, in the end it is a new scale and new level of machine learning, a combination of clustered flags and decentralised processing on a level that is not linked to any synchronicity. Part of this solution is not in the future, it was in the past. For that we need to read the original papers by Paul Baran in the early 60’s. I think we pushed forward to fast (a likely involuntary reaction). His concept of packet switching was not taken far enough, because the issues of then are nowhere near the issues of now. Consider raw data as a package and the transmission itself set the foundation of the data path that is to be created. So basically the package becomes the data entry point of raw data and the mobile phone processes this data on the fly, resetting the data parameters on the fly, giving instant rise to what is unlikely to be a threat and optionally what is), a setting where 90% could be parsed by the time it gets to the mining point. The interesting side is that the container for processing this could be set in the memory of most mobile phones without installing stuff as it is merely processing parsed data, not a nice, but essentially an optional solution to get a few hundred thousand mobiles to do in mere minutes what takes a day by most data centres, they merely receive the first level processed data, now it is a lot more interesting, as thousands are near a cell tower, that data keeps on being processed on the fly by supercomputers at rest all over the place.

So, we are not as Drew states ‘in an AI arms race‘, we are merely in a race to be clever on how we process data and we need to be clever on how to get these things done a lot faster. The fact that the foundation of that solution is 50 years old and still counts as an optional way in getting things done merely shows the brilliance of those who came before us. You see, that is where the military forgot the lessons of limitations. As we shun the old games like the CBM 64, and applaud the now of Ubisoft. We forget that Ubisoft shows to be graphically brilliant, having the resources of 4K camera’s, whilst those on the CBM-64 (Like Sid Meier) were actually brilliant for getting a workable interface that looked decent as they had the mere resources that were 0.000076293% of the resources that Ubisoft gets to work with me now. I am not here to attack Ubisoft, they are working with the resources available, I am addressing the utter brilliance of people like Sid Meier, David Braben, Richard Garriott, Peter Molyneux and a few others for being able to do what they did with the little they had. It is that simplicity and the added SETI@Home where we see the solutions that separates the children from the clever Machine learning programmers. It is not about “an algorithm of about 75 lines of Python code “placed inside a larger software-hardware container.”“, it is about where to set the slicer and how to do it whilst no one is able to say it is happening whilst remaining reliable in what it reports. It is not about a room or a shopping mall with 150 servers walking around the place, it is about the desktop no one notices who is able to keep tabs on those servers merely to keep the shops safe that is the part that matters. The need for brilliance is shown again in limitations when we realise why SETI@Home was designed. It opposes in directness the quote “The colonel described the technology available commercially, the state-of-the-art in computer vision, as “frankly … stunning,” thanks to work in the area by researchers and engineers at Stanford University, the University of California-Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a $36 billion investment last year across commercial industry“, the people at SETI had to get clever fast because they did not get access to $36 billion. How many of these players would have remained around if it was 0.36 billion, or even 0.036 billion? Not too many I reckon, the entire ‘the technology available commercially‘ would instantly fall away the moment the optional payoff remains null, void and unavailable. $36 billion investment implies that those ‘philanthropists’ are expecting a $360 billion payout at some point, call me a sceptic, but that is how I expect those people to roll.

The final ‘mistake’ that Marine Corps Col. Drew Cukor makes is one that he cannot be blamed for. He forgot that computers should again be taught to rough it out, just like the old computers did. The mistake I am referring to is not an actual mistake, it is more accurately the view, the missed perception he unintentionally has. The quote I am referring to is “Before deploying algorithms to combat zones, Cukor said, “you’ve got to have your data ready and you’ve got to prepare and you need the computational infrastructure for training.”“. He is not stating anything incorrect or illogical, he is merely wrong. You see, we need to realise the old days, the days of the mainframe. I got treated in the early 80’s to an ‘event’. You see a ‘box’ was delivered. It was the size of an A3 flatbed scanner, it had the weight of a small office safe (rather weighty that fucker was) and it looked like a print board on a metal box with a starter engine on top. It was pricey like a middle class car. It was a 100Mb Winchester Drive. Yes, 100Mb, the mere size of 4 iPhone X photographs. In those days data was super expensive, so the users and designers had to be really clever about data. This time is needed again, not because we have no storage, we have loads of it. We have to get clever again because there is too much data and we have to filter through too much of it, we need to get better fast because 5G is less than 2 years away and we will drown by that time in all that raw untested data, we need to reset our views and comprehend how the old ways of data worked and prevent Exabyte’s of junk per hour slowing us down, we need to redefine how tags can be used to set different markers, different levels of records. The old ways of hierarchical data was too cumbersome, but it was fast. The same is seen with BTree data (a really antiquated database approach), instantly passing through 50% data in every iteration. In this machine learning could be the key and the next person that comes up with that data solution would surpass the wealth of Mark Zuckerberg pretty much overnight. Data systems need to stop being ‘static’, it needs to be a fluidic and dynamic system, that evolves as data is added. Not because it is cleverer, but because of the amounts of data we need to get through is growing near exponentially per hour. It is there that we see that Google has a very good reason to be involved, not because of the song ‘Here come the drones‘, but because this level of data evolution is pushed upon nearly all and getting in the thick of things is when one remains the top dog and Google is very much about being top dog in that race, as it is servicing the ‘needs’ of billions and as such their own data centres will require loads of evolution, the old ways are getting closer and closer to becoming obsolete, Google needs to be ahead before that happens, and of course when that happens IBM will give a clear memo that they have been on top of it for years whilst trying to figure out how to best present the delays they are currently facing.
 

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Passion of the player

I have been in a state where I decided to have a second go at some of the games I have had for some time and to get a few of the achievements added to my profile. Because of the Microsoft issues outstanding, my Xbox One is switched off, even if it has one of the most treasured games in my history of gaming. There is something wrong in the Xbox Universe and the press is happy to ignore it, because they want the Microsoft Surface Pro advertisement revenue (or at least that is what I personally think it is). Yet, not to fret, the game I love is coming to PS4, so soon (I hope), I can rejoice and feel alive again. Last week I started to replay Arkham Knight on my PS4. I had not played it for some time and there were several achievements I never got. I got them now (not all yet) and I still think that Arkham Knight is one of the best, near perfect games made for the longest of times. There is only one mission (the ACP mission), where the maker of that mission should consider lobotimisation. Yet that is the only mission that is just too dumb for words. The game gives us a batman world that the batman lover will embrace. The game is just too awesome in too many ways. In addition, I had installed the DLC’s yet I had forgotten to check them, so as I restarted the game, I had 4 additional Arkham episodes to play. What a feeling of bliss that brought. The game has all kinds of issues to some, yet in all of this, I loved pretty much every moment of this game (except the ACP bungle). The feeling a truly good game brings is often overwhelming, which is why I tend to get really testy when some (read: Ubisoft) drop the ball and deprive their games of a legendary status when it was (as I personally see it) within their grasp. I actually stayed away from Wildlands, so that is not a title to consider for bad or for good. Yet I have seen too often how some parts could have made a difference with just a little more effort. Yet, you need to realise that this is what I personally see as ‘a little more effort’, yet after being into reviewing games since 1987, I have a good handle on how certain things could have been better. So when I state that Arkham Knight is near perfect, I am not trying to sway your eyes. Like any game it tends to go a little over the top at times, but the Batman feeling and even the Joker and Scarecrow (masterly voiced by John Noble) gives us a setting that will be hard to overcome. Yet, is that not part of the game, to surpass others? In this I get back to the silent release of Shadow of Mordor, which I initially ignored because it seemed to be some Lord of the Rings title. I have never been happier to have been proven wrong. I saw one small movie on YouTube and I ran to the city in record time. Shadow of Mordor is one of those ‘must have’ games if stealth is what you like. The game is balanced and gives options for the rowdy slasher and the silent throat cutter alike. The entire nemesis system gives the game a flair that is pretty unique and the fact that it is all in Mordor just adds to it all. The game is quite excellent, so as we move towards a bigger sequel called ‘Middle-earth: Shadow of War’ many players will move into the ‘ranger shivers’ stage as they want that feeling of bliss gaming. Where Ryse and Watchdogs fall short, these games deliver. That is the name of the game and Ubisoft has fallen short (read: not flopped) a few times too often. Ryse is also an important title to mention. You see, I did not go for it, mainly because of the ‘button press action sequences’ in the game. I loathe them. The graphics were good, yet there was a repetitive side to the game that was unsettling. The second wind rounds and a few other items that just take the joy away. Yet Ryse is important in another way. This I learned when I decided to watch the YouTube storyline. I was just curious on how bad the game was and that title was soon lost, because Ryse has one of the best storylines I had seen for some time, equal to Arkham Knight, the story lines we see, Ryse has a storyline that is more and captivating, the entire Damocles story is almost an epic Greek story, one that the God of War trilogy would have been proud to have. It is one element in a game that does not satisfy which makes me wonder, could a more visionary maker have taken Ryse and make it a legendary title for the history of the console? I personally believe that the answer is Yes, which is now also an issue, because with the upcoming and less trusted Scorpio and the PS4 pro are going to be reliant on very good titles. You see, the console that wins will be the one that brings the better games. Even as the balance has games like Diablo 3 on both, perhaps Diablo 4 at some point, it is the unique games that make for the push towards a console. I believe that outside titles like Death Stranding will push systems and we cannot wait for the impact of that experience. We seem to latch onto some games like God of War (4) and hope to see the same feeling that the first three gave us, yet the Scorpio will have tis own game list and some of those fans (like HALO linked games) are just as fanatical towards their passion. In this I have to mention that one of these underrated games, on the Xbox was Styx. Those who got it for free on Live: Gold should get the sequel, like the previous game it offers challenge and is again larger then the prequel. I, for one love stealth games and Styx delivers in a few ways that few do. Still there are more games and more options. It is just where you seek your entertainment. When it was introduced, my first thought was not ‘Awesome!’, it was, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ (that is apart from me not owning the IP that is), I am referring to Pokken Tournament. Think of a Tekken game and now replace them with Pokémon’s! Can you imagine, the population that is all Pokémon Go! and now gets to battle brawl, crush and batter your opponent using Pokémon’s?  It gets even better if you consider what could be achieved with a setting like that. Apart from the previous Pokémon Colosseum (GameCube), the idea to have an RPG where you have to actually fight in the game. Not just tactical, but in a more arcade setting? The fact that your grass type Pokémon has additional benefits on a grassy knoll is just awesome. That game could keep you busy for months on any next generation console. All this in ways we have never played or even considered playing Pokémon before. As we see the arrival of remaked games this year (System Shock and Elite Dangerous PS4), gamers are recognising certain older games that brought more joy than some ‘open world’ games today claim they bring. I still keep my Wii, because I would love to replay Metroid Prime (1 and 2) again some day. When you feel that deep about a game, you know that the game is well above certain levels. Consider those who loved the Ultima series of Richard Garriott, consider playing that game on a Skyrim engine. To explore Sosaria, a true open world with missions to find, but overall the game is to just live and grow the character you created, exploring based on a ‘central mission’ but one that grows and brings more and more travels and challenges over time. It is in that light I initially made a design that I named Elder Scrolls 6: Restoration. the light of artistic creation (in my case a story and storylines) is one we need to embrace. We all have our own way of growing our artistic side. If you consider this to be not true, then look up ‘GTA5 Story DLC’, the demand for this mentioned product is off the scales and that makes perfect sense for those who love GTA5. The need for more and new challenges is within us all and addressing that is what gives some games the extra desire. Diablo 3 and Shadow of Mordor have their own engine giving us new and different opponents. It is that variety of bosses and treasures that makes us go back to the game that offers it. I was playing Diablo 3 (still) a few weeks ago, only to get a legendary item I had never had before, giving that character (my Witchdoctor) a mojo and dagger that makes short work of opponents, even on Torment 4, which is a decent challenge in the best of days and a nightmare on others. I now finished a portal in 4 minutes on that level, a speed I have never even been close to even before. Those are the moments a gamer lives for, Blizzard and Bethesda have figured that out for some time and they have so far not stopped delivering to the gamers need. In that CD Project Red is another player who with Witcher 3 reached the acclaimed ‘legend’ status of game creators, in that, do you think that there is one gamer, who loves that genre of gaming who does not check for ‘Cyberpunk 2077′ on a nearly daily basis? In all this, the reviewer (as I was in the past) I have been careful not to dismiss genre’s I did not like. For example, I do not give a toss about GTA5, it is just not my game, yet I can clearly see the excellence and quality of that game. So even as I am unlikely to give it a 100% score, it doesn’t take a genius to see that it is clearly a 90%+ game. That insight is one I kept with me when I was reviewing games in my days. very few games made it to the 100% bar, in my time less than a dozen games got that score. One game that did get that score was Ultima 7, my favourite System Shock got 95% and System Shock 2 got 92% if I remember correctly. There is however a shift, as games got graphically better, and as PC systems were more and more depending on more expensive cards the way to correctly review a game changed. I accept that and I was no longer reviewing PC games before that happened, I think the last PC review was Thief 3, which required me to upgrade my Diamonds Lab card in 2003 just to play the game. It was an upgrade well worth it, yet the element of graphic cards had already grown in those days. Nowadays the issue is a serious one. when we now see that the main negative point of such a card would be that ’99 percent of gamers can’t afford it’, in this case the GeForce GTX Titan X card, we need to reconsider certain system for games. now, I am going for the very top, so there are definitely alternatives. It is the aftermath that now becomes more and more important. The idea that I have to give a lifeline of a mere 2 years to a card that would at present cost me an arm and a leg is an issue younger gamers need to realise early in the game. the idea that a gamer needs to reserve around $800 a year to keep his graphics card up to date is a little much. Oh and this is the top of the range, there are good cards that require $500 a year, so there is manoeuvring space. Yet, when you are passionate about a certain game. The idea that you cannot play it at 100% of possible, how does that go over? It is for that reason that I stopped chasing PC hardware. I believe that the console delivers good gaming. I accept that PC’s will always bring better results. Yet in consideration of a $600 console versus a $2500 medium gaming PC, versus a $6000 for an upper range gaming PC, what can you, or what are you willing to dish out? That has always been the issue, and I cannot answer for others, yet when we consider the bad luck PC gamers had with Arkham Knight, my view will remain with the consoles. Although, in fairness the GTA5 edition, is supposed to be worth all 60 $100 bills for a top level gaming PC. It is where your passion lies and who delivers the experience to the fullest.

There are still a few games coming in 2017 and many are counting the days for the release date, yet as we see a shift in consoles, the gamers who have moved to console will have to see how they will address their gaming needs. For me with Microsoft, the issue will remain that relying on a 1TB drive, whilst you have already been shown that this is not sufficient, there will be a blowback, especially as Sony has opted to give gamers the freedom to replace the Drive for a larger edition. Crunching on a mere $60 to give the gamer half the storage is just dumb, no matter how you slice it. It is even more silly when you consider their claim “With 6 Teraflops, 326GB/s of Memory Bandwidth and advanced, custom silicon, the Scorpio Engine is the most powerful console gaming processor ever created“, and now consider that the system would be able to crunch the entire drive in 3 seconds, what are they playing at? Now, in honesty, Sony offers the same drive size, but allows players to place a larger drive. More interesting, I can just move my PS4 drive in a new PS4 pro and start playing almost immediately (OS requires update I reckon), 100% more storage, an option Microsoft does not allow for. Now, again in honesty, Microsoft did offer the Xbox 1s with a 2TB drive and that is well worth it, so why not get 2TB or even 3TB of the bat? the difference between 2TB and 3TB is less than $50 ($80 from 1 to 3 TB), who would not go that distance to resolve storage issues for the better part of the lifetime of that console? I have done that with the two previous consoles and never regretted it, there was never a storage issue. That is comfort we pay for!

We gamers we have always paid for our passion to be one in comfort, I just do not get it when game makers are ignorant of that part, there is years of data and evidence supporting my view. So to all a good day of gaming, and for those chasing achievements on the games they love, may you get that truly rare achievement today, and if you get ‘The Dark Soul’ achievement in Dark Souls 3, then we all bow to you, oh game master!

 

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