Tag Archives: RPG

It’s about time, slappers only

Even as we look at games, play games and even improve games, we all tend to have our own idea on how things should be. So I decided to take a look in another direction, I decided to look at the Unreal Engine (Unity too), on how to make a game. To be honest, I have no plans to create a game, even though I have a few ideas on at least one original IP, I feel out of my depth on creating the game myself.

So why look at these engines?

I noticed whilst I was observing someone else making a ‘game’ and introducing people on how to make a game, I noticed that my mind wandered into how that applied into my own IP. It also gave me the additional ideas on how to evolve gaming (my IP) and give the player something new, something they have not played before; more important, a version of view that has not been done before, which in light of all the games out there is quite the statement to make. Even as some effects seem familiar as we have seen different visions in games like Splinter Cell (night vision, thermal vision), what can you do to gaming when you do not get to have a choice? What if your evolution also brings with it changes in how you see things? It was an interesting view that we saw (read: read about), in Infocom’s Suspended. It was my first Infocom game (CBM64) and also the only one where I actually had to buy the hint guide for (came with a marker to make invisible statements visible. So as we took control of Iris, Whiz, Waldo, Auda, Poet and Sensa, we saw something different as all of them looked at the same thing. That idea was pretty interesting to read about, yet what happens when we ‘see’ the difference? That was the first foundation of a new title. The second part came from a memory of a game called Mercenary (Novagen). There were the Palyar and the Mechanoids, now what if they were one and the same (a Dark Chrystal reference), what if we have a game where the environment forces us (not allows) for evolution from one to the other, yet also with the setbacks that one or the other has. A game where you can choose to go one way, go the other way, yet gives us the puzzles and challenges that does not merely make it a fun game to play; it would in addition also give us a challenge that makes the fun of replay much higher. As an RPG fan, the option to replay a game is important to me for the mere reason that if I am able to buy a game at $100, I would like to be able to play it several times, or as they say in Fintech, if you can squeeze a $10 bill and you get 11 $1 coins, only then have you maximised your currency. I can do that to games, so hence the stage to create something that is a great return on investment.

So as I am looking at these Unreal Engine presentations, I am seeing all kinds of changes that could make the game even better, more challenging and more fun to play. I am now also seeing a few things that I had not actively considered to the degree that I needed to consider it. After merely seeing 3 hours of presentations, I saw half a dozen items that added to the thoughts of the new IP I am ‘creating’. So what happens when you are in one stage? You want to be in a stage where you can have two challenges without repeating the methods. It is almost an Alien versus Space Marine part, but not the same, the difference is still there, yet in another way. The best example is seen in the original Daredevil with Ben Affleck. So what if our view is based on some version of: ‘sonic plus’? This was merely one of several iterations my mind was going through to set the stage of the game. And just watching the run through gave me additional idea after idea and as such, my version of this non existing game kept on evolving.

Why do we care?

Well, you might not, yet consider the elements I came up with, it seems that it is not entirely unique, yet the version I have has to the best of the knowledge never be seen and if I can come up with this, why de several development houses work with a new version of that same Franchise again and again and we see a total lack of actual original new games. What makes for a game to be squeezed in repetition with a larger lack of new IP? It seems to me that certain houses have been lacking in true new IP and that seems like such a shame. If a gamer is depending on something new, not something relaunched, we see the flaw that is out there, and in that same light we see the growing desire of golden greats like System Shock. Do not get me wrong, I loved that game and I hope to play the remastered edition when it is done. More importantly, it also gave me other ideas on how to resolve play value. You see, in System Shock, what was working had to be destroyed (camera’s) systems had to be switched (VR Cyberspace level parts). Yet what happens when you have to get it fixed. Not some blatant ‘repair tool’ that shines on the object. No, what happens when you have to scrounge systems to find parts to rebuild a server, strip tools, strip consoles to get the keyboard, the display and the processor system? Get to the router and then get to the server? We seem to think of such elements too easy. So what value do you get when you play the game in hard core mode and you have to set the stage to repair network access systems? You might only have to do it once, but there we get the additional choice of fixing a system, versus stripping systems to create a mobile version. Now what additional solutions will we see when it goes beyond merely network. In System Shock it is on a space station, so water, environment and other elements would optionally be broken and that is how I saw my new IP, not merely fixing and scrounging, but the fact that in any biological disaster we see the impact and limitations of a dangerous zone. Now, what if that is not set straight, but could alter from game to game? New routes, now solutions and other options would need to be found to get to a certain stage, in addition, as we change those parameters, the steps to do certain things will also alter as to where and when we choose to make changes and that too adds to the challenge.

A next stage

So what happens when we take that to a new level? What if we consider Watch Dogs 4 (three is being made now)? What if the setting of the stage is completely out of our comfort zone? What if we impose limits on ourselves? How willing are you to go into true survival RPG when it is not some irradiated mess (Fallout series) or Post-apocalyptic (Horizon Zero Dawn). How ready are you to be a real gamer and in the game you ended up in Korea or Japan and that game is all Korean or Japanese? Will you fold or rise to the occasion? In my view in Watchdogs 4, you and your sister/brother escape from people smugglers and you swim ashore to end up being in either country. Having no knowledge of the language, in Seoul or Tokyo and the introduction leaves you with a clean smartphone and Google glasses. Now you have to get the software, use the glasses to translate signs on the go, you need to learn language and you need to figure out how to get another party free (who is still captive somewhere). You get to choose on a criminal or non-criminal lifestyle all with its own challenges of work, odd jobs, a place, food and other elements. Can you complete both sides whilst also freeing your parents and not set of the alarms that running to the police will get your parents killed? Now consider doing that in a completely set city (a 900% version of the Watchdogs 2 map), also consider the elements that can be added, additional challenges and a true evolved NPC stage of interactions. I got part of the idea when watching the YouTube channel Only in Japan * Go (at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDsvL48jluG3tvlyurB4K3g), what if the interactive part is truly AI driven and it has a lot more responses than we have now (like 5,000% more). A stage where time is more important, not merely a day rotation where 30 minutes represents 24 hours, but where time is closer to actual and the game will have constraints in time management. We have seen elements of what I described here and there, yet for the most we have never seen them all united and when you are in a game that should last you 100-150 hours of gaming to complete. Taking the stage forwards by adding long term playing challenges, with the essential need to avoid grinding we see a new stage in gaming, a new stage in RPG, even as we see the truck load of people being anti-Bethesda for now. They did make a huge change and even as there is an essential need to patch the 34,554 bugs and glitches (a mere speculated rough estimate), we are looking at a game that is more about survival than the series have ever added before. We see the option to push a similar evolution into the Watchdogs series, where survival becomes an issue when we are no longer in our element; also we are no longer in a place where we can just walk around. The option to show new technologies and add technologies in a new light, where a device like Nudle Glass, could translate any sign we see in the game by adding a text balloon with the translation. where the phone will do voice translation and we add mobile technologies where we start getting the ability to hack, the ability to interact and the ability to emboss the storyline and challenges. A place where you need to get the odd job (on a food market, a market or just some courier job) where you get the cash to get by for the daily cycle whilst still having to find a way to safe your parents. More importantly, a stage where you have to get it done within a certain time (250 days for example) before their health gives out, these are all stages that we have seen before, yet never all at the same time and not to this extent. We need food and water (the one real fault in Subnautica), yet when we are given hours to get things done, we see options to stretch a game in more meaningful ways. the need to get transportation and to get on public transport as we cannot run from one end to the other (like in Watchdogs), as we have to get from one place to the other in Tokyo (or Seoul), yet when we have to get by 13Km to do that, time becomes a factor and that is the part game makers ignored because they lived by the act that all of it had to be fast and dynamic, yet the longer RPG game could benefit from the additional challenge of getting transport and learning to find your way by public transport (time skipping). It is not merely for the challenges and the storyline. You get to be part of the environment; you will need to clearly think on your feet. We might have been able to forego sleep in Fallout 3 for 200 days, yet the need for sleep will be here (even if we skip it in a few seconds wait time), we impact the other elements and when time becomes a deciding factor in the game we get a more true survival game. In opposition of Elder Scrolls (Oblivion or Skyrim) where we loaded up al every mission we could, making time a factor means that we need to focus on a mission. Even as we need not consider time for everything, we get to have a time driven to do list, affecting the way our NPC’s regard us, as we miss the deadline for jobs.

We also get to consider how we survive, not only is making the wrong enemies a much larger concern, adhering the game to, for example, Japanese law where they have ‘No one shall possess a firearm or firearms or a sword or swords’ gives new needs for being creative. The Thunder ball in WD2 was extremely innovative, in WD4, we might resolve to set the stage for a walking cane, or perhaps a belt (strangling). By adding the locations realism in practise, we also create new solutions towards game play. We can still use the WD hacking weapons, yet now we add new elements to the challenge. We might think it is not cool to be unarmed, however when we consider the reality of ‘Japan has some of the world’s strictest gun control laws with punishments that even scare gangsters‘, when we see that, the need for creativity makes the entire enterprise more rewarding too. I hope we can all agree that opening vents via remote in WD2 was as lame as it could get, the challenge can still be met in other ways. So when it is no longer about the killing, but now it is about creativity (like collecting data) we create a new kind of survival game, an entirely new challenge and is that not what gaming is about? When it is not about dropping bodies; when the stage becomes about paths that are about industrial espionage, true surveillance and getting the wealth that could purchase freedom, or perhaps the paths that will expose the people holding your parents, we see applied creativity in another way. We open the door for people to find another way to get to the end and that journey is open for anyone, yet by making time a new constraint and a more truthful constraint we see that people will try to adopt ‘glitches’ when that fails (and it should), we end up getting a real gamer and the game that does that changes the dimensional view of anyone playing a game. When the silenced scope is not available, when the knife gets you years in jail (parents dead, end game!) we can start looking at what we can do to give the challenge of a watchdog. You see, a watchdog is a person who ‘warns members of the community when potential or actual problems arise‘, we saw that to some degree in WD2, running all over San Francisco, yet we can take it to a much larger scale. When the game allows for the criminal side by data invasion, corrupt journalist devices and hack police terminals, or do the opposite by resolving hacks, by deleting criminal data bases and transmitting video of criminal activities in the game, we can become rich, famous and well known or have both worlds by getting a second identity and do both. If we can set the stage of double dipping and we can also create the stage where we can be found out playing both fields and as such impede progress, angering both sides of the social isle; we get a much larger scale to play with and a much bigger challenge. It makes the game more rewarding when we replay the game.

Is this a good idea?

Most likely in this shape not. It needs work and we now have the resources to take it to this level, yet most software houses have not shown the willingness to take it this far (exception Ubisoft- Far Cry 5 and Bethesda- Elder Scrolls), and a lot more is possible. You merely have to look at Horizon Zero Dawn and how much further it could go is a clear indication of what might be reached. Having the map online is one solution (Fallout 76), yet when we realise that in Horizon Zero Dawn is in a scale of 107.5:1 (in miles) compared to real life. What if we see a game where it is less than 10:1 (1:1 being the optimal solution), what other parts will you open? Not merely a place like Tamriel with suddenly the space for 24,999 additional locations, but the stage where we actually need to keep mind on mapping to find the location of Telepe, we see a new challenge added to it all. The nice part is that we can still scale according to level of gameplay, having from easy (90:1) towards hard-core (1:1) we get a game that is not merely more challenging, we get a game that no one has seen before, it needs a true new approach to skills, levelling, completing and time that changes the game. The nice part we saw in Fallout, is where we in Survival (hard-core mode) we see the one life part as well as the absence of fast travel. We see them all as interesting challenges to try, yet when we add them all together we create an entirely new level of gaming. The PC has been there for some time, and with their drives installing it all to the drive is a breeze nowadays (one Blu-ray for the map, and one for the game) For consoles it is a different matter and one that needs work, optionally requiring an online connection for single play, where all the other players will work from an ‘image’ of the same map. No matter how we slice it, the players and gamers are all ready for a new level of gaming.

The downside?

Well, there is no real downside; there is an additional challenge of avoid the mistakes we see in AC Odyssey. Several sources give us: ‘Lots of level grinding‘, ‘Repetitive missions‘ and ‘Long load times and stuttering‘. The last one is a technology issue and should be resolved; grinding needs to be avoided at all times, yet at times will be there. If your daily routine requires income, we get grinding to some extent and food and rent, yet when you pay rent every month, we need to find the week to get through, whilst getting paid in the process. The challenge is to keep grinding to a low. when we see the comment ‘Simplistic combat’, we accept that in some cases, yet when we are in a game where combat is to be avoided and reduced to slappers only (pugilism), we still get a decent challenge if the AI is good enough. In addition, as I see it I want the gender to set the stage for entirely different play throughs, As the girl you have retail options, and also a stage where invitations to the right party places could offer all kinds of opportunities, yet on the criminal side of the game, it might not be so rewarding. To overcome (in a creative way mind you) on how we can add no less than 5 dozen ways to get income (two dozen of one and 36 of the other), we have the setting for not merely an achievement, depending on where it is, we might set a financial stage, as well as a social stage that opens up location (housing opportunities) to shift the range of time requiring to be spend doing one or the other.

When we approach that part, the game becomes bigger, not more tedious. Some might say that if there is no kill score, there is no game and perhaps those people would feel better moving to Detroit, yet in light of any RPG, is violence required? I never did it myself, yet some have played and finished the game in pacifist mode. I admire that as I never considered that in the first few play throughs. Those are defining moments in gaming, when you go out and try that one option you never tried. When you are merely left with the MacGyver placement to get the dough you need for next month, how can you apply it in enough ways to avoid getting the ‘grinder’ label?

In light of the AC Odyssey reviews that might be the larger challenge, especially when you want to equal or even surpass the 150 hour game challenge. I particularly like the Watchdog setting as we get to explore new ways where technology is pushing the envelope of gaming, not the hardware, but the devices in the game. When we need to evolve the software in the smartphone used to get better at hacking, get more in receiving and skim more from people, how can we do this in creative ways? As the locations change and we see that in ‘richer’ places we see more NPC’s with RFID protection, how can the player still get by? In WD2 we merely got the apps and that was it, it was an opportunity missed. Several apps had the potential to be upgraded to a ‘better’ version. When we see that in action, we can contemplate what foreign refugee life in that new place could be. Push beyond the apps and elements like health tags, domotics, smart monitoring, entertainment hacking for students (extra income in game), so many options to add to the game. At some point the question becomes, will that much data break the game?

The other way round

The largest issue we see in many RPG games is that linearity is an issue; Infamous Second Son is the best example. It starts truly great, yet when you get to Seattle it becomes as linear as a ruler and even in hard mode it is not a real challenge (apart from the third boss). To avoid that we can do what they avoided in Horizon Zero Dawn. There (in my personal view) the Tallneck had too much information; it is an equal flaw in the AC series. What if we change it so that some sets have some types of information (not unlike the server hacks in WD1), yet other information like food, shops, are found in other places. What happens, when we need some version of Yelp for one and a WD version of Lifull (Japanese rental app) for another part? Why did they not use a much larger App Shop tool, where apps had advantages and disadvantages and you can only use one, giving a new challenge in the game. You see we can use it as a benefit and a limitation. We get the benefit of one, whilst losing out on the other (luck becomes a factor) and if every game tweaks these elements (like rental prices, income per hour) we take a risk in using the same solution, diversifying the choices we make, enhancing the replay option.

Every time the ship sinks

It is an old joke, yet did you imagine in 1997, that watching Titanic (preferably in IMAX) had a different outcome when you watched it the second time? It might not work in the movies, in gaming it will. When we are confronted with a new challenge and we can reset the parameters, we can add a chance that some actions happen, making the rush towards a goal more urgent and by moving from easy to normal or even survival some chances increase. It gives two parts, the benefit that you are truly challenged and the stage where there was no chance to win (like in Shanghai, when you end up having two identical stones on one another), we can try to avoid the chance, yet should the chance be zero?

RPG & Realism

I added the no guns part earlier not because I like it that way, but because I admire the option of the pacifist path, it adds to a game, so we can still have weapons, we can still use them in the equation, making the penalty and danger a lot larger if caught. Yet having a weapon and especially in the far east where we all think that life is incomplete without Katana or Geom, we see all kinds of options to enhance the game and gameplay. Yet in my mind WD4 should be much stronger on technology, hacking and devices, maximising what we can do with them. It was pathetic in WD1, yet in WD2 we saw a really nice boost, we can however do a lot more than it had and we should push for that. At present there are a whole host of actual hacking apps. iRet, netKillUIbeta, iWep Pro, Myriam iOS Security App, iSpy, Hopper App, Cycript, Frida, Firecat, Highster Mobile, et al. What if there is a Watchdog version of some (or all) where we have to rely on other means to get information to get further in the game? We can have one to three apps that have these abilities and as we get access to another app, we can evolve one of those three to give us more hack power. In addition, the merging of app and stealth gives us more time to get what we need before we are blocked (an income limitation). So as we go forward we get challenged more. We could just go Fred Flintstone, bash the person hack the phone an walk away. Getting more initially, yet also getting loads of infamy from the boys and girls in law enforcement blue.

All options that would have been available, yet the present RPG lines never truly pushed the envelope, it seems a little bizarre. There is no way of telling how popular any RPG game gets, yet when we see that the greatest foes are ‘repetition’ and ‘grinding’, it seems odd that some of my ideas were not there in WD2, as it was something we could have seen coming a mile away.

This might not have been interesting to anyone but gamers, yet when we see how the US is seemingly angering Iran and Saudi Arabia to an equal degree, do you really want to wake up and drink coffee, or play a video game and hope that after 4 hours it was all merely a bad dream? When we consider the dozens of additions that took less than a few hours to add, against the fact that some of these games have been out since 2014 and sequels in 2016. Is it not interesting that so much of the same is shown to gamers? Not merely Watchdogs (Ubisoft), Fallout (Bethesda) could have made additional usage of terminals, writeable holotapes and other bits as well, between 2008 and 2018, we saw 3 products and we see forward momentum to a decent degree, no one is debating that, yet how much more could we have seen? When we see in regards to Far Cry 5 ‘it’s very much More of the Same‘, should we fear the beginning of iterative gaming? I can tell you now that this would be a really really bad thing. We went from Forbidden Forest (1983) to Tekken 3 (1997), which shows a 1000% improvement in all directions, yet when we consider Tekken 6 (2007) and Tekken 7 (2015) we are for the most merely confronted with better graphics and the list of games with a similar issue is growing rapidly. A truckload of gaming leaps all ignored for a few reasons I gather, so in my view there is too much wrong and the fact that we are confronted with Forbes asking “is it fresh enough, or is this just another Ubisoft open-world game checking off all the boxes?” and the fact that Metacritic gives us 78% rating for the game. When you consider that the game had a budget between $80 and $130 million, and a 78% score, we need to worry. Ubisoft might not care as some claim that it made over $310 million in the first week. Yet, if we consider that it could have been a 90% game, is this a stage where Ubisoft missed out of an additional $150-$200 million? There is no way to tell and it is highly speculative from my side. In this I am not hammering Far Cry 5, merely using the most visible example. Is one a sign of the other and as such is it also a sign of iterative game development? It is an important fact and one that needs investigation as the game in gaming is set for more and higher budgets. As gaming was set to a $108.9 billion stage in 2017, and as the predictions given to us, that in 2020 $20 billion more will be made, is it not important to maximise that as much as possible? Especially now in a stage where too many are on a tight budget, relying on Black Friday and Week 12 discounts, getting it right as much as possible will be adamant in getting the larger chunk of that $120 billion pie.

When we (speculatively) see that ‘more of the same’ is part of the 78% rating, a diversified game is becoming more and more important. Some might not care, others might oppose, yet when we see that GTA5, a game (not my style of game mind you) that some regard as perfect as a game can get, that game made $6 billion, my case is, as I personally see it made.

If some are to be believed, there is the idea that 2020 would be the year of GTA6, with the view as is, there is every chance that every owned of GTA5, will get GTA6, implying that all the other game makers will vie for the additional budget left for gaming. In that stage, as I personally see it, they will not spend it on a game that is more of the same, so the other game makers will have to consider upping their development ante by a lot.

Whatever comes out then will also require extremely serious testing, as the people are getting mighty annoyed with the amount of huge day one downloads they face.

 

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‘More’ is Awesome

It is an expression we have seen in several places, so when I initially heard that the new Assassins Creed Odyssey was ‘more of the same’, I was not that surprised considering the Ubisoft of the past few years, yet, as I loved the forward propulsion that AC Origin gave us, I was upset enough to keep my eyes out for a decent review and Eurogamer gave that to us (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23CLV1jl9oo). In the first those who do not realise it, Eurogamer is one of the best reviewing channels for games you can find at present. They have been honest and give a decent view from their point of view. It is also interesting to note that each of the reviewers namely Aoife Wilson, Johnny Chiodini (aka Mr Feedbackula), Ian Higton and Chris Bratt have their own likes and dislikes, just like me. I myself am nuts about RPG games, they too have their preferences in gaming. So in this case I got treated to the smooth Irish voice of Aoife Wilson. Let’s face it, when any review comes with an Irish accent, does it not generally sound better?

So the review gives a little bit of a spoiler, but considering that it is merely the start of the game and the fact that the game promises over 100 hours of game play, we can accept that part and the very first thing we see is that even as it is another Assassins Creed, it is no exactly ‘more of the same‘. It is more, a hell of a lot more and even as there are elements of all other games in here, the game is definitely a new behemoth. So even as we are treated to 431 BCE, which by the way this was also the beginning of the Peloponnesian War (I remember that time well), it was a year before Athens was almost completely ravaged by Typhus, and a year after that we got treated to the very first showing of Oedipus Rex, a tragedy like no other. In this the mother forgives him, the father is unlikely to ever do so.

But back to the game. Yes, there was some ‘more of the same’, but mainly only in the graphics, which were outstanding in Origin and outstanding is always good. The video give us a clear setting that the storyline has been given a massive haul over, making it a much larger RPG sandbox setting than ever before. That is my part where I answer Aiofe’s question ‘Does it justify 100 hours of game play?‘ To that I at this point state ‘Yes!‘ The story lines are an important part, and in addition to the other parts it seems like with Tomb Raider, the underwater parts seem to look a lot better. Parts of the review also imply that the game has taken a more tactical side to the game as well. Going after a fort by yourself versus weakening the enemy first makes a lot of sense, so in all this, there is a lot to see. As I see it, it is not ‘More of the same‘, it has become ‘A more evolved and adult approach to a game of such a tactical nature‘. So in all when you look that you are playing a game with 4K (for those with the coins to play in this mode), we see the setting that AC Odyssey is offering a game that remains under $1 an hour, which is by far one of the most rewarding value for money games I have seen for some time and that is worth a lot. It also gives the setting that with two distinct choices (playing as the he or the she), also makes the game an interesting choice to replay, which makes the game even more rewarding in more than one part. If I had to make a pre-release view then it is that Ubisoft is back in adding value to its brand and franchise, which gives us the ‘better late than never’ part and that counts as well.

Those who have read my views on Ubisoft know that I have not been kind to them, but I have always given credit where credit was due and in all this, and in this case Ubisoft should get loads of Credit. If there is one optional part missing (unverified) in all this it will be the setting of the Nekromanteion not being there, what would have been in the Northern boundary of the map. It was where the Temple of Hades was. It might matter as it in this time setting when the site building was erected and it would stay there until the Italians (Romans) decided to burn it down in 167 BC.

I have watched several reviews and I disagree with a few. Some state that this is not a proper AC game, and perhaps this is true as this is centuries before the Creed, is that a bad thing? I would offer that AC Black Flag is even less of an AC game. It is perhaps a new IP and in all this it is a push for an historical RPG game, this is with my love for RPG a great step, for others perhaps less of a nice step. No matter how you feel about the AC part, Odyssey is exactly what the titles promises to deliver. You will embark on an epic journey and when you think that Origin already gave that, think again. The map alone seems to be close to 300% of the previous game and that is impressive when you realise just how big Origin was. So on October 4th give your pet a really big treat, presents and felicitations as it is World Animal Day, because the day after that AC Odyssey is released and there is every chance that you will ignore everything around you for days to come, which would make perfect sense.

So even when we see large changes in this franchise, it is my personal impression that they are all for the better, there is not one part that seems to be negative in this. More options for dialogue, more choices on paths as well as multiple endings. Making the replaying of this game more enjoyable and when you consider that this game was already down to $1 an hour (for some even a lot less) making that 100 hour journey the best epic journey in the history of this franchise. The most honest question you can ask yourself, are you willing to play an RPG? Are you willing to step out of your optional comfort zone? It is my belief that this trip will be one you are extremely unlikely to regret, but in the end only you can answer what you like. what is clear is that the AC franchise has taken a new course, and as it is a pronounced one, it will not be for everyone, I merely expect that it will be the right path for many more players than ever before and that is a good thing, a good game is always a good thing, even if it is not for everyone.

Only a delusional developer makes a game that is for everyone!

If there is one part that I will miss, it will be the one hit kill. Historically speaking, sneaking up to a person and shove a spear through the back of its skull tends to be fatal, there has never been an exception to that, not even when you sneak up to an ego driven empty headed politician. They all tend to keel over, curl their toes and start their: ‘I am dead now!‘ procedure. So that part I will miss, even if there is no more hidden blade.

So one optional non positive part against close to a dozen positive parts, how can any player pass it up? Well that will be fair, the non RPG lovers, but for that group there are plenty of other games to play. No matter how you view it all this will be an amazing trip, so choose, decide and optionally enjoy this game. I expect this game to get an 88%-97% rating, that whilst the RPG lover is likely to give it a 92%-99% rating (only Zeus, Poseidon and Hades get 100%), Leonidas and all everyone else will have to live with a 99% rating.

As far as I can ascertain at present, my official response will be: ‘Well Done Ubisoft!

 

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Where we are in gaming

So the E3 is almost done. I saw the EA bit, I was blown away by Bethesda where they ended the presentation with 13.2 seconds announcing the Elder Scrolls VI. A mere teaser, but what a teaser, the crowd went insane on the spot (me included). I reckon that it will be a 2019 release and we will hear a lot more after the release of Fallout 76 later this year. When it comes to Fallout 76 it will be a lot bigger than ever before. It allows for single play, friends play and multiplay. That is merely the first part, the second part is that Fallout 76 is announced to be 4 times the size of Fallout 4, so any Bethesda fan expecting to be well rested by Christmas better start buying stocks and options in Red Bull, as they will need it and lots of it.

There was a lot more announced, most importantly the setting of a new free game, called Blades, an elder scrolls version of Fallout shelter, a very different one, Bethesda went one step further where the game is fully playable in portrait and landscape mode, the view on the game made me desire an immediate update to my mobile (which is falling apart anyway). In addition, Fallout Shelter became available at that point for both PS4 and Nintendo Switch. So Bethesda is not sitting still and a lot of it at no cost at all, showing a level of gamer care that we have not seen to this level before. Bethesda blew us away with the upcoming DLC’s, updates and new games. After that it was time for Microsoft. I have had issues with Microsoft and they are still growing, yet the presentation given was really good. Phil Spencer knows his shit and that of many other players in this field. He knows what it is about and as we saw all kinds of ‘world premieres’, it relied to some degree on both Bethesda and Ubisoft to give some of the goods, but that was not all. I stated it before, I am not a racing fan, but Forza 7 blew me away, it was astounding to see, so I was not ready for what happened next. If Forza 7 is set at as a 90%-91% game, the upcoming Forza Horizons 4 is getting us straight to the 100% mark. They really outdid themselves there. It is set in historical England, all of England and if you think that Forza 7 had the goods, seeing seasons and weather set into the driving, seeing every place go through the 4 seasons, you will see something totally unique and there is no doubt that if it holds up on the Xbox One X on 4K and 60fps, you are in for a treat, even a non-racing fan like me can see that this is something totally new. There were also announcements on gaming houses and developers bought as well as some of the indie developers who are showing excellent products. Phil Spencer is making waves; he is not out of the woods as he has to clean up the mess of two predecessors, so he has his work cut out for him. There was also a less nice part. They did in many cases give not any release date, merely ‘pre-order it at the Microsoft store‘. I personally believe that this is the Microsoft path, a path that was dangerous and I accused them for not being in consideration of gamers. There was more. You see, Microsoft is moving to take the shops out of the equation. They were doing it to some extent (poorly I might add), yet now when we consider Gamerpass “Xbox Game Pass launched back in June, and provides access to more than 100 Xbox One and Xbox 360 games for $10.95 per month“, before you think that this is a lot, consider that you get access to 100 games, with the announced NEW games, we got that it will include the next Halo, Gears of War, and Forza on launch day. So that is a massive teaser, yet I am also scared of the intentions of Microsoft. I have seen this before. You see, TechAU gave away the speculated goods with “selling games is no longer an option. With console hard drive storage sizes increasing to 1-2TB, its possible we need to rethink game ownership completely. The big question will be the games available. If they’re all games from 6-12 months ago, it may still be seen as a good opportunity to play a bunch of games you meant to buy, but never got around to it“, if only it was true, because they already dropped the ball twice on that one. You see, I saw a similar play in the late 80’s by The Evergreen Group, they had government backing and undercut the competition for years, after that when the bulk was gone, the prices went back up and they were close to the only player remaining. It seems that Microsoft is on a similar path and when we saw the Faststart part I got a second jolt of worry, with the stating that they used machine learning to see how gamers play. This implies the profiling of all players, so when exactly did you as a gamer agree to that? You see, when this becomes personalised, it is not about the average player, this is about you as the individual player and I personally believe that the push ‘to pre-order at the Microsoft store‘ is not merely marketing, it is about pushing for online only and take the shops out of the equation. It makes sense from a business point of view, yet you end up with the only IP, the ones they allow you to have, for whatever time you end up having it. I never signed up for that, and even if we love the offering they give for now. When the shops can no longer support this theory, what happens then? How will you feel in 5 years when your IP is based on a monthly rental? It is a dangerous part and for now you think it does not matter, but it does, you see the earlier quote ‘With console hard drive storage sizes increasing to 1-2TB‘, yet the Xbox One X is merely 1TB, so there is that already, then we realise that the 1 TB merely gets you 800 GB (OS and other spaces reserved), so now we see that the previous Gears of War was 103.12 GB, implies that with one game installed, you are down to less than 70%, now add Halo 5: Guardians (97.53GB) and Forza 7 (100GB). So, only 3 games and 50% of the total drive space is gone (those mentioned games were the largest ones).

So when I see the mention of space for 12 games, I wonder how correct it is. Now consider the announced games like Fallout 76, the Division 2, Beyond Good and Evil 2 and wonder what will be left. People will wake up much to soon as they have to reorganise their console drives, way too early in 2018. Consider, not just the games, but the patches as well. Now you start seeing the dangers you as a gamer face. The moment that 120 million gamers start working in an online setting (PS4, XB1 and Switch), how long until the telecom bandwidth prices go up? How affordable will gaming remain? For now it looks great, but the bandwidth fountain will be soured, the impact is not short term when it hits, and the impact will be too great to consider for now and the Telco companies have not even considered the dangers, only their option towards optional revenue. There is supporting evidence. In Australia, its fun loving product called NBN had 27,000 complaints last year alone. If the old setting for every complaints 5 people did not bother, we see a much larger issue. With issues like outage and slow data speeds one number (source: ABC) gives us that at present the growth of 160% of complaints ‘equated to 1 per cent of the activated premises‘, how is that to sit in whilst downloading 100 Gb for your Xbox One X, and that is merely Australia. In places like London in full setting congestion will be a normal thing to worry about. So when we see “Julie Waites said her 85-year-old mother Patricia Alexander has been without a working phone at her Redcliffe home, north of Brisbane, since June when the NBN was connected in the area“, which we see 4 months after the event, there is a much larger issue and Microsoft did not consider the global field, an error they made a few times before and that is the setting that gamers face, So when your achievements are gone because for too long there was an internet issue, consider where your hard earned achievements went off to. I am certain that it is not all Microsoft’s fault, but its short sighted actions in the past are now showing to become the drag regarding gaming.

The one part that Microsoft does care about is its connections to places like Bethesda and Ubisoft, who in their presentation show to be much larger players. We get that this is merely beta and engine stuff, but the presentation of the Division 2 rocked, I am not sure how the Crew 2 will do, but it looked awesome, in addition the EA games looked as sweet as sport games can get on the Xbox One, so they have the goods. Phil Spencer is making waves and he is showing changes, but how trusting will this audience remain to be after a mere two incidents where gaming was not possible due to reasons not in the hands of Microsoft? Their support division stated last year that the uploaded data from my console (not by me, were all the responsibility of the internet provider), are you kidding me? Yet the games do look good, there is no denying that, yet their infrastructure might be the Achilles heel that they face in the coming year. There was also time for the upcoming AC game called Odyssey. It is very similar to the look of Origin in looks. Graphically it is stunning. The view also shows that AC is changing; it has a much larger political impact in the story line and the changes you can make. It is a lot more RPG based than ever before, which as an RPG lover is very much appreciated and with the choice of a male or a female player is also a change for good, unlike AC Syndicate the choice will be for the duration of the game, making it a much larger replayable challenge. The demo shows that there definitely are changes, some are likely gamer requests, the rest seems to be a change to make the game more appealing regarding the play style you choose, but that part is speculation from my side. I would want to be cautious, yet they truly took the game to the next level with AC Origin, which makes me give them the benefit of the doubt. The setting that Ubisoft brings is much stronger than last year, so it could end up being a stellar year for Ubisoft. When we get to Sony, I become a little cautious. Yet even as we saw it in the previous presentation, instead of merely presenting titles, having live music on stage, the music from the games was a really nice touch. I do not know about you the gamer, yet I have been more and more connected to the music as the quality of it has been on the rise, so seeing the performances was well appreciated. It might have started as early as ACII and Oblivion, now we see that good music is a much larger requirement in any game. A much darker the Last of Us 2 (if that was even possible) sets the stage for what is to come. Yet, even as we see awesome presentations of what is to come, I have to admit that Microsoft did have a better presentation. Sony is also playing the ‘store’ setting with PlayStation Store for bonus options. The games are overwhelming and those are merely the exclusive titles. When we consider all that Ubisoft and Square Enix bring to the table, it shows to be a great year for all the PlayStation owners. Yet, the overwhelming advantage that they have over Microsoft is not as much as you would think. The question becomes how heavy the overbearing advantage that the Last of Us 2, Ghost of Tsushima and Spiderman have, yet when set opposite Forza Horizon 4, Halo Infinite and Sea of Thieves I wonder if it remains a large advantage. Sony has more to offer yet the overwhelming exclusive benefit is not really there. So when we look at a new Resident Evil, actually a remade version of Resident Evil 2, we remain happy for the ‘unhealthy’ life diminishing gaming treats that are offered; both consoles will be offering gaming goods we all desire. There is no doubt that gaming revenue will go through the roof and it seems that we are in a setting where games are not just on the rise, the predictions are that they will grow the market in nearly every direction, and we still have to hear from Nintendo, you see that one is important for both Microsoft and Sony. There is little doubt that they will surpass the Xbox One in total sales, yet now it becomes the setting where they might be able to pull this off as early as thanksgiving, a setting Microsoft is not ready for, the ‘most powerful console‘ will optionally get surpassed by the weakest one as Microsoft has not kept its AAA game for close to two years. Three simple changes could have prevented that, yet the view and setting of always online, GamerPass and storage destroyed it, the mere consideration of infrastructure was missed by Americans focused on local (US) infrastructure and forgetting that the optional 92.3% of the desired customer base lives outside of the USA. The simplest of considerations missed, how is that as a hilarious setting? Oh and getting back to the Sony presentation, if you thought God of War surpassed your expectations, it seems (from the demo) that Spiderman is likely to equal if not surpass that event, so there is one issue that the others will have to deal with, the PlayStation players (Xbox One players too) will just have to wait and be overwhelmed with the number of excellent games coming their way before Christmas, because for both of them the list seems to be the largest list ever. I am posting this now and perhaps update a few Nintendo settings, as there are several revelations coming. GeekWire gives us in all this “Microsoft’s Xbox One still faces an uphill climb vs. Sony and Nintendo“, yet the article (at https://www.geekwire.com/2018/e3-2018-analysis-microsofts-xbox-one-still-faces-uphill-climb-vs-sony-nintendo/) misses out. You see, even if we are to agree with “Microsoft has effectively made its own console irrelevant, because even with the Windows Anywhere initiative, there’s no particular reason for a dedicated enthusiast to own an “Xbone” if you already have a PC. There are certainly advantages, such as ease of use, simplicity of play, and couch gaming, but the same money you spend on the Xbox could be going to tune up your computer so you can play the same games in a higher resolution“, we see the truth, but a wrong one. You see ‘the same money you spend on the Xbox could be going to tune up your computer“, is not correct. We need to consider “you can find a large number of 3840×2160-resolution displays in the $300 to $500 range“, as well as “For a better 4K experience, look to the $450 GeForce GTX 1070 Ti, $500 GeForce GTX 1080, and $500 Radeon RX Vega 64, though the Radeon card is still suffering from limited availability and inflated prices. These cards still won’t hit a consistent 60 fps at 4K resolution in the most strenuous modern games“, so you are down for a lot more than the price of the Xbox One X and still not get the promised 60fps that the Xbox One X delivers. And that is before you realise that a TV tends to be 4 times the size of a PC display. The biggest issue that has not been resolved is the mere stupidity of 6mm of space, that allows for a 3TB Seagate BarraCuda, it would have diminished most other issues, now merely evolve the operating system requiring people to be online all the time and Microsoft would have created an optional winning situation. It should not impact the need (or desire) for GamerPass and it would change the curve of obstruction by well over 70% overnight, all that when you consider that there is a $65 difference for 300% storage, something that the 4K community needs. Phil Spencer has one hell of a fight coming his way and if he can counter the Microsoft stupidity shown up to now, he could potentially turn the upcoming number three position around in 2019, making Microsoft a contender again at some point, yet if the short-sighted board of Microsoft is not willing to adhere to some views, they will lose a lot more than just the loss of a few hundred millions of console development, they might lose a large customer population forever, because gamers hold a grudge like no other and if it was not merely the cost of the console, the fact that the games they bought might overtake the total amount spend by close to 3:1, and once gone they will never ever return. That is the stage we see now and even as there is a lot of improvement, where it matter no changes were made. So even as we should all acknowledge that Phil Spencer is a large change for the better, Microsoft needs to do more. They have the benefit that Sony gave a good show, yet not as good as Microsoft. Perhaps the live presentations are the E3 part we all desire, the demos and previews were all great on both systems. In that regard Ubisoft and Bethesda both brought their homerun at the E3 and they are well deserved ones. As both deliver to both consoles there were no losses on either side, only wins for both sides, yet that leaves the small devil in my brain considering the question. If Fallout76 is 4 times the size of Fallout 4 which (according to Eurogamer) ‘required 100GB install sizes as a minimum‘ for 4K. So how much more will Fallout 76 need? It is in that light that we need to look with a 1TB drive, something I saw coming 5 years ago. So now, whomever buys a 1TB system will soon (too soon) stop being happy. That is one of the fights Phil Spencer will face soon enough, an issue that could have been prevented 6 years ago. It is so cool to see all these games coming, whilst we see a storage system supporting merely part of what comes and that is before we see the network congestion as a few million people try to update their game and get access to the networking facilities. It was an issue that haunted Ubisoft with the initial Division in 2016. When we saw ‘I’m still at work, had to stay overtime and I’m really salty because I might not even play today because of all this server downtime‘, I merely stated that they could have seen that one coming a mile away. Ubisoft upgraded everything and I do not expect to see this in the Division 2, yet consider that it is not merely one game. Consider every gamer getting issues when they want to access Gears 5 and Halo Infinite on launch day. That is the issue we could see coming and in all honesty, in most cases it will not even be the fault of Microsoft at all. The evidence was seen in Australia merely a week ago when ABC treated us to “NBN Co chief executive Bill Morrow suggested that “gamers predominantly” were to blame for the congestion across the National Broadband Network. He later clarified that he wasn’t blaming gamers for congestion, but reiterated that they are “heavy users”“, that is the reality setting, where Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Destiny 2, two games are 49% of the average hourly bandwidth usage, now add Fallout 76, Gears 5, the Division 2, EA Access and Microsoft GamerPass. You still think I am kidding? And that is merely Australia, now add London congestion and when we consider some news sources give us: “London, Singapore, Paris and New York taking top spots when we consider internet congestion“, I reckon that Europe has issues to a much larger extent. When we consider in addition that the Deutsche Welle gave us last January “A new report has found that only a small fraction of German users get the internet speeds that providers promise“, as well as “the problem is only getting worse“. That is the setting Microsoft is starting to push for and the gamers will not be enjoying the dangers that this will bring. Certain high level non thinkers at Microsoft are making this happen and now Phil Spencer will be faced with the mess that needs cleaning up. The part that many have been ignoring and it will hit Microsoft a lot harder, especially when it wants to move away from uphill battles, a sign that we cannot ignore and whilst the plan might be valid in 4-6 years, the shortage that the hardware and infrastructure gives at present will not be solved any day soon and that is counting against Microsoft. The impact will hit Nintendo as well, but not nearly as hard. The evidence is out there, yet some analysts seem to have taken it out of the equation. Is that not an interesting view that many ignored?

So we are moving forward in gaming, no one denies that, but overall, some cards (like always online) were played much too early and it will cost one player a hell of a lot more than they bargained for.

 

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To emphasize ‘flawed’

There are all kinds of issues playing. Murdoch who admits that they benefitted from hacked emails (so what else is new), the call for the leadership of the Tories or even more annoying the battering ram of North Korean rants and counter rants and the nauseating gossip train of the Las Vegas shooter. All of that is worth a few dozen words, yet in my mind, in light of yesterday’s view of IP and gaming IP, I think it is clear that a few more words need to be spend on the category, but now on a different field.

IP is at the heart of the matter, but now we will look at another side. For those who have had a view of games and gaming, many will remember the awesome trilogy called Mass Effect. Those who went through the growth of the Xbox 360 brand will have been aware of the Mass effect trilogy, there is no way escaping it. The first one gave us something new and exciting. When we consider the Elder Scrolls and the Fallout games, we were clearly introduced to a competitor in this field and Mass Effect delivered something new, 2007 became an almost magical year. Then something new happened, in 2010 we saw the sequel, a sequel that is still regarded as one of the best RPG games that the Xbox 360 ever received. I will skip the final part in all this. So in this history, you might understand that the expectations were so high (perhaps too high) for Mass Effect Andromeda. The people at Bioware had 5 years to get it right and they failed. The game was flawed on several levels and even as we need to accept that it is not a bad game, the utter quality of Mass Effect 2 was not equalled, not by a long shot. I am not alone, many reviewers saw the game as one that does not equal the initial trilogy and even now, the interest of a remastered original trilogy is desired a lot more than Andromeda is. I finally played the game, I was unwilling to pay the full amount after being shown the most basic of glitches and issues, but when offered as a new (not pre-owned) game for $25, I gave it a go. So as I have finished the game in a week, I concur, the game is flawed on several levels. I am not going into the animation and graphic glitches, too many did this. The game from the beginning shows a flawed approach to several sides. Now, it is shown in the initial level, a level which I usually ignore as it tends to be an intro level as to train the gamer how to play the game. So after the intro movie (which is actually quite brilliant) we get to go to the first place. Here we see the impact of flaws. So after 650 years in travel we get to a planet and whatever they have we can use to reload our own weapons. We see a new opposing player and that is fine, yet the battle strategy, the weapons, the resources show us a flaw from the very core onwards. Ammunition is the clearest part, but it goes beyond that. The Nexus, the entire evolution that we play through, we can go two ways here. Either the game should have been a lot bigger with a lot more to do to grow us into the nexus and locations, or live with the assumption jumps that were made, jumps that were wrong on a few levels (as I personally see it). Now, we need to accept that things like this happen in action games and shooters, because the focus of such a game is different. Yet in RPG you can’t get away with it. The plot does not thicken, but the elements get to be a lot more questionable. The Salarian ark and the Turian ark are just on the surface of that. When we get confronted with those elements in the story we see the flaws grow. Patched stories for the sake of whatever they thought it was going to be. So when we see (from Wiki) “Mass Effect: Andromeda required a team of over 200 developers and, according to Aaryn Flynn, was given a total budget of C$100 million, which included marketing and research costs.” we get the first realisation on the bungled level of a game. My initial personal design (concept) of the sequel to Skyrim took less than an hour to construct in my mind and an additional 4-5 hours to type. So I got to be in a much better place from the get go. Now, do not take my word for it, because you never should. So instead I am going to introduce you to a group of 20 people, not having anywhere near such a budget. The team is Unknown Worlds Entertainment and their take on RPG with Subnautica is one of the best, one of the most refreshing (all that water helps) and amazing trips I have had in my lifetime of gaming. I hope that this game makes it to the PS4 and if it is still available on Xbox live in early release do it because it will be the best $30 you are likely to spend this year. The comparison is important because even in its non-final stage Mass Effect does not get close to what Subnautica has already delivered. OK, granted that if shooting is your need in Mass Effect, Subnautica might not be for you, but overall Subnautica kicks Mass Effects ass on several fronts. Three programmers outshine the dozens that Mass Effect had and that is just embarrassing. If you want to learn more take a look at IGP (the Indie Game Promoter) who (at https://www.youtube.com/user/TheIndieGamePromoter) has all kinds of videos. So take a look at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgyCiWXPZzE&index=76&list=PLVxH6E2fftrfbnmjYAXXiCJJwleb-HZvB for a first view of the game which gives a view almost two years before the final release. You want to skip to 1:45 and skip to the start of the game. The game is very much the truest view of RPG as they can get. So the intro is not as flash as Andromeda is, but that is the only time Mass Effect wins. Now, as stated, this is not a shooter, so be aware of that. The part that should amaze you is that this game is more about survival and the basic survivalist edge is often ignored by many RPG’s.

So as I am giving you a parallel on the skips of Mass Effect and also ‘story lining‘ of Mass Effect, we need to dig a little further. Now in their defence at times we cannot prevent that in the case of Mass Effect, but consider that after a trip for over 600 years, we get to aid certain players (Salarians) ‘just’ in the nick of time. This is an issue on a few levels.

Also even as we accept that many bought it soon and the game had sales close to three quarter of a billion, which is a financial success, it comes at the realisation that the game scores 72% which at the budget given is a massive flaw, yet here I will admit that the shooting side of the game is as some stated it: “The core shooting mechanics feel stronger here than anywhere else in the series“, which was made by Scott Butterworth of Gamespot and he is right, this part they did do very well and it is likely the one reason why the game remained the financial success it has turned out to be.

Yet the QA was far below par, the delivery was wrong and in the end I personally profited by getting a decent game for $25, a mere 6 months after release. So consider how this game could have gotten closer to the $1 billion mark by getting things right? An additional twice the investment by thinking things through and properly testing it from the start, and not even requiring to think too intelligent; the basic story line debated on the flaws that they needed to avoid from after the intro level onwards. Consider that the ‘Salarian Ark’ event became a basic shooting mission, whilst it optionally represented dozens of hours of additional gameplay on several levels. So apart from the timing as a ‘just in the nick of times‘ mission that is underused and oversold, we see that the other Arks become mere wasted moments in the game. In a place that has so many shortages, leaving behind an ark that has thousands of tonnes of resources seems weird, even if it does not have any lives left. It is not as the Nexus had an abundance of resources, did it? So there we see more, just after a setting that had a revolt, shortages and deviant issues, we see every time the Tempest comes and go’s (too often because of other flaws) we see that the docking level shows an environment that equals the embassy level of the citadel itself, all missed options and opportunities. There we see the option of an additional 10% score if it was done and properly tested. So now we get from 72% to 82%. Then there is the premise that this is a game with only 5 worlds to fix?

There could have been a few more, and more important, changing the way the vaults were accessed on at least one world might have made the game a little less obvious (to some extent). So here we have another 5% in the making, making the game approaching a 90% game, which is a given need when you waste 5 years and a hundred million. Subnautica, when you like that part of RPG gaming is giving you at 25% of the full price of the Mass Effect game. A game that was already awesome when I decided to get it and whilst playing the early release, the game added at least 4 more expansions to the main game and they are now part of the main game. In one part Mass Effect wins. The graphics, there is no denying that the graphics of Mass Effect were really good, but we might see that an additional 80 staff members (and 90 million more) should guarantee that part. All this and as we know that RPG’s are set over time, so we can accept that growing the impact over time as we play might have given a few more options and a few more changes to the way that the game was played, giving the gamer a better game (and optionally a much larger game).

So as I have enlightened you on some of the flawed parts, there is now the link to the previous article to set. The longevity of a game as well as the IP is the sellable part of any developed game and in that part Subnautica is all about original IP and they got the IP to grow value, loads of value. Even as we see that Mass Effect is to some extent more of the same, they did grow their IP range, but only to a fraction of Subnautica. This now gets us to the setting that is the link. In the digital age the value of the service purchased is the money we invest in the product we thought we bought. You see, as gaming progresses, we see a dependency and as such we no longer buy the property, but we lease it in some ways and rent it in other ways. The gaming industry has no choice but to set the multiplayer sides into a renting foundation (buying with an open point or termination), whilst the single playing part (the missions) will be leased for the term of the console. Now consider the satisfaction you get from leasing a game that is rated at 72%. Are you willing to go on paying the amounts we see? At this point I have now shown you the essential need to properly test a game before release. You see, it is shown in the quote that several sources gave. With: “Following Mass Effect: Andromeda’s poor critical reception and lacklustre sales, BioWare put the Mass Effect series “on ice”“. So even as we saw some sources state a sales numbers surpassing $500 million whilst there was $100 million invested, so either the numbers given were wrong, or we see the impact of greed as others walk away from a $400 million milk cow. In that part, what were the true costs and why would any company walk away from a possible $100-$250 million in season pass revenue. This part and the issues had shown from several sources that the detrimental financial health of IP and IP value is shown to be at least to a larger part to be due to the flawed quality of proper testing. Ubisoft has been though it (Assassins Creed Unity) and as we see Bioware and Electronic Arts walking away from half a billion dollars, we need to consider beyond games and the value of a gamer, we need to see that the impact of IP is not set in stone and the quality of the product (or service) is at the foundation of what we think we purchase and what we expect to receive. In this there is the clear evidence of the flawed product that is Mass Effect Andromeda and the weird part is that I saw the flaw in the first hour of the game. This now sets the premise of the wrong players (read: business parties) that were in charge within Bioware and Electronic Arts. It is my personal believe that their marketing division has either too large a vote and they looked at the wrong sides of the game. This in a setting of a 100 million invested, how weird is that?

So now we get the treasure that the Cullens, Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys give us on their web site. With “Whether buying or selling a business one of the most overlooked aspects of the transaction is the intellectual property of the business. Proper identification, scrutiny and valuation of intellectual property will have benefits for both the purchaser and vendor“. It is the issue that is really the bread and butter of growing game developers. In this the word business can mean either that or it can be set to ‘product’ or ‘service’ and the realisation of this quote which is not new, shows just how flawed (or sloppy) Mass Effect Andromeda turned out to be. Now, we look at the bad sides here, but the game has loads of good sides too. Yet it missed the boat by at least 20% (72%, instead of 92%) and I lighted up 15% in the easiest of ways. The last part we see when we dig into the world of the game testers. Now I can relate here, because I reviewed and tested games for the better part of a decade. My knowledge and skills showed me the parts I illuminated and I truly believe that there are better testers than me, so that implies that none of them work for either Electronic Arts or Bioware which is statistically near impossible, so that means that the large investment was made on a flawed infrastructure, or at least that is as I personally see it. You see, the old joke (from when I was young) has been that it takes 90% of the time to fix the last 10% of a project. At some point highly educated graduates were hired in places where the foundation of art is the core of the business and they introduced the setting of ‘linearity’ of art based projects. So that a project is done at 10% a month and the last two months of the year were for testing, which is not how it works and not how it will ever work. Now, I simplified the idea for illustration, so it is not an exact given, but the clarity of flaws that Mass Effect Andromeda shows on day one of release gives the validity of my view and shows just how breached the concept of design linearity is (perhaps you remember the Ubisoft statement of ‘every year a new Assassins Creed game’). As such, I believe that the game lost out on massive revenues.

Now consider the two headlines:

Bringing Mass Effect to a new galaxy isn’t quite the shot in the arm the series needed” or “Blown away in another universe 640 years later“. The first is IGN and the second one is one I came up with, if they had done a proper job. So would you buy the game if you read ‘isn’t quite the shot‘? Gamespot had “After the first few hours of Mass Effect: Andromeda, I was discouraged“, whilst Forbes gave us “I don’t think anyone will claim it outclasses the original trilogy, outside of maybe the very first game“, so a new game merely on par with a game released a decade ago. This is the setting of a flawed product and the fact that this was not seen in the beta stage of the game is questionable. So in an age of digital rights that are moving more and more from the permanent availability into a stage of temporary usage, where we no longer get to own the product, yet merely lease (read: rent) a product also requires others to realise that the game of gaming is shifting, and these players can only continue if they ‘up the quality’ of the product or service they make available. This shows in one way just how amazing a game like Skyrim is proving to be, the fact that the game still embraces gamers 6 years later whilst Electronic Arts loses the bulk of value of a product within 26 weeks. That is the evidence that shows that flaws are becoming a much larger issue for all in these fields and it shows that the players like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and others as well, need to take a harsh look at what they offer and not merely listen to their own marketeers as the value of what they bring forth is now shifting whilst a product is in development, which is the third nail in the coffin for Electronic Arts as it took 5 years to get to a very much less than perfect place they ended up. I believe that the flawed setting can be improved upon, yet the people at Bioware better realise that the stakes are raised and they are raised by a lot, in that we need to ask whether they can match the needs of a shifted market.

I cannot answer for them, and like Nintendo Electronic Arts and Bioware are not out of the game. You see, even as Nintendo bungled the WiiU, they hit back with the Nintendo Switch, which is becoming a game changer in gaming. I believe that both Electronic Arts and Bioware can do the same, the question is whether they will, time (read: the next release) will tell. Should that fail, they could always move forward by charging their fans an additional $10 for a steel box of a game. Oh wait, they are already doing that with FIFA18, ahhh how the world turns!

 

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A little more slamming

It is only one day from release and the initial findings I saw, with which I stand, needs adjustment. You see, those reviewers who got the full copy, learned a few more things, and actual gameplay shows issues that all the YouTube play throughs never did. One of the better review sources Eurogamer, gives us (at http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2017-03-19-mass-effect-andromeda) with quotes like: “BioWare’s fourth Mass Effect smacks it over the head with a prospector’s shovel and boots it out the airlock during the first few hours of play. You’re left with a zesty but unsurprising third-person shooter“, which is not a good start, and it goes down after that with “go to a waypoint, scan 10 Remnant collapsible shelving units with your ugly wrist-mounted display, scoop up five mineral deposits for some lazy boffin back on the Nexus, blow up three raider outposts, and so forth” as well as “Andromeda is most disappointing when it’s at its best“, this reflects the subtitle of the review: “mediocre writing and tepid quests add up to what is probably BioWare’s worst RPG yet“, this is not good for an RPG that has been 2 years in the waiting. A lack of proper QA, not unlike Ubisoft has been through gives one other contemplation. The issues shown (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CPYw5uxER4), show us a few disturbing issues with the game and animations. What I found most interesting is the excuses that the narrators of the review give. The issue is proper testing which is now shown to have been absent to more than just a small degree.

There are a collection of additional videos when we look at Mass Effect Andromeda, some are partially funny to hear, but they will not give you the quality review that Eurogamer gives. The nightmare that BioWare now faces as it has received a mere 77% from IGN, gives that those not willing to pay full price might want to wait 6-8 weeks and pick it up for $29 as shops will now be stuck with massive piles of something that the gamers at large will not want at full price. I did like the mention that Dan Stapleton gives (IGN). “Mass Effect Andromeda has a few great moments that recapture the highpoints of the original great trilogy“. It shows that EA is not on the ball and more important, the initial presentation teaser is exactly what we thought it was, much ado about nothing.

So the RPG gamers can now relax and realise there is only Bethesda that as a real RPG maker remains (OK, I admit, Guerilla games is the new kid on the block), which is both unsettling and problematic, because actual competition will breed diversity and push cutting edge gaming forward, a party of one does not tend to do that. An improvement issue that is not coming our way any day soon, so it seems. I have my own sense of humour in all this, as I created a new open world game in my mind that already outdoes Mass Effect. I only wish I had the programming skills to make it a reality. So as you see, we are all flawed, although it seems that Electronic Arts is at present a lot more flawed than most others. The only thing remaining is the contemplation of what to think of certain reviews (like for example in Empire Online) where we see: “Combat clicks far better than it did in previous instalments, however, providing a twitchy experience more akin to a dedicated third-person action game than an RPG with some shooty elements tacked on“, a view I would have partially agreed with, yet several movies now show that to be not the case. Still, this would be a matter of opinion, and that reviewer has every right to feel this way. As you might remember, I made a similar statement last week, but clearly based on videos with playthroughs shown to me. The full reviews a few days later show a very different image. Even before the awakening by Eurogamer, there was no way that the game showed me “Andromeda’s superior combat allows you to play like a space marine, Sith lord, or the best combination of both“, in this I think I agree with several YouTube Bloggers that BioWare is not off to a solid start and a Mass Extension of additions and improvements will be required to show the next game not to be as good, but basically to be worthy to stand in the shadow of Mass Effect 2, which should be regarded as an issue on several levels.

I will be honest, the teaser trailer offered on June 12th, 2014 was the start of something that should have been a lot better than the end result that will be officially released tomorrow.

 

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The second zero hour

On 11/11/11 Bethesda released a game, we know Bethesda is pretty good at what they do, so they knew they had something that the RPG niche market would enjoy. Yet, I wonder if they were even close to realising that they were clueless on just how well they had done their job? You see, I am a passionate RPG fan, so I was on board from day one. Yet, Skyrim was different in many ways. To illustrate that, consider that it’s your 18th birthday and your parents give you a new kind of Maserati, a real one, but this one has one extra option, this car allows you to drive without any speed limits, so not speeding tickets ever. How would you react?

This is what Skyrim achieved. In the first week a little over 7 million copies were sold, which is already a record in RPG land, what no one thought possible happened, Bethesda pushed RPG clear into the mainstream gaming area, they somehow got the magical formula right. So up to now there are well over 23 million copies sold making it one of the few billion dollar plus game revenue.

Now, 5 years later we get another zero hour, the same game is being released on PS4 and XB1, the people are about to go nuts again. Leaving us with the realistic prospect that this game could equal and possibly surpass Grand Theft Auto 5 sales. That would still be a very tall order as they sold 65 million copies, but it is possible and the rage and hype that is out there at present is definitely a decent indication that it could happen.

As I said: ‘they were clueless on how well they had done their job‘, which is perhaps one of the better compliments on the doorstep of Bethesda. Even with Fallout 4 surpassing all records, this one will push their records even further. I have stated again and again, if you aren’t willing to get to the edge you will never make a truly exceptional game. Bethesda went to the edge and stared into the void of the dread father Sithis. They are coming out on top!

So why is this game so amazing?

I believe that open world games are the long term trend of games and the true desire of gamers. In this game you start as being a convict on the way to execution (a wink to the previous Elder Scroll game). After a small introduction that helps you keep your character mobile and alert, you are about to get your head chopped off and that is where the world goes pear shaped on your executioners. From that moment on you have the ‘escape’ part teaching you the elemental things of the game, which takes about 20 minutes, fraught with action and after that, it will be whatever you want to do. Follow the path offered to you or seek your own destiny. That is how most RPG players like their game and this appeal has gone mainstream (meaning the non RPG population at large). A game that offers you value for money. For the same reason that I was ‘offended’ that a $90 game named Tombraider brought with 10 hours of game-play, and for the repetitiveness that some other games bring. The open sided part of Skyrim offers a long term fun that not many games offer. For that $90 on Skyrim I have had well over 1000 hours of gaming fun. That is value for money to say the least and this version will be a one price with complete game and all the DLC additions that the game had offered for Skyrim. So for the new players this will keep you busy until the New Year. For the returning players it is a different story. You see, in my case, it is the same thing, but now with upgraded graphics. In addition, the consoles will now get the option to play mods, which was until now only an option for PC players. It will be a brand new day for RPG players, and that brand new day starts at midnight as the remastered HD edition of Skyrim hits the shelves for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

In that regard, there is one additional bonus for those who went all out earlier this quarter and bought the Xbox One S, will, if they have the right TV enjoy this game in 4K, which is as far as I can tell a first (please correct me if I was wrong), which would be a nice additional feather in the Bethesda cap. Giving an additional edge to the Xbox One market. Even as some ‘gaming experts’ have stated that there is no market for it (too expensive, no games and so on), the fact that the Xbox One S at present has two clear advantages over the PS4 Pro, the setting that Skyrim now offers can (and might) drive Xbox One S sales as it is introducing Skyrim to an even wider audience. That last part is a given as pre orders are of the charts in some places. Yet all this is now pushing for another side of visibility that also needs to be said.

That other side is seen as we look at Forbes, we see that merely 15 hours ago (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2016/10/25/bethesdas-decision-to-withhold-review-copies-is-bad-for-gamers-and-sets-a-dangerous-precedent/) the following was released ‘Bethesda’s Decision To Withhold Review Copies Is Bad For Gamers And Sets A Dangerous Precedent‘, and in that regard, I would initially be completely on his side, apart from the fact that Ubisoft has been doing that since Assassins Creed Unity. Yet when I look at www.youtube.com/watch?v=onFm-7_wTyA as well as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mpQF-01raY we see reviews of that new versions a week ago. Of course we agree that ‘new’ is a relative term for a game originally released on the 11th day of the 11th month in the year 11 (+2000). In addition, the second video also shows that the game has a few additional effects to the Skyrim experience. Yet the issues shown, does not diminish the words we see in Forbes. The article brings good points, yet with Cam Robinson and minion having reviewed this game a week ago, my issue is not with the article, but I am stuck with the question why that reviewer had no ‘advanced copy’. It could be for any reason, but is that a real problem? This game is a new format release, the game itself still has the same missions, quests and places to visit, what is new are the mods. So the review would not have needed that much time in the first place.

skyrim-646x372So, will you get the game on PS4 or XB1?

If you loved the game the first time around, the answer is very likely to be yes, if you are new to this game than it should be yes for several reasons and one additional reason if you are the lucky owner of the Xbox One S. Also, ‘new’ gamers should remember that this game has been played and loved for almost 5 years, which is quite the achievement for any single player game.

The one thing that is a definite, is that it will give rise to one question on a global level: ‘When will Bethesda release the 6th game in the Elder Scrolls series?’

As for me, I will enjoy playing this game again and I will try not to take an arrow to the knee this time around.

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Seeking the next stage

As we move towards the end of an era, exams, some move towards a new life and towards other challenges and new games. Tonight the start of Fallout 4 begins, too busy to make a real dent in it, but I will take a peak. I did take a peek at Assassins Creed in another way. I did not buy the game for the reason that Ubisoft has disappointed twice now, thrice including the latest one. As far as shown it does not have the massive issues that Unity had, but overall it ends up being more of the same. The finale is completely over the top, but at times one must allow for that. Like all previous AC games, the graphics are beyond unreal, but that is it. The AI of the opponents is still out there, the control, or better the consequence of assumption by the game engine is also still out there, just like in Unity. In all fairness those who want more of the same will like it, partially I want it too but too many irritating moments where Assassins Creed is controlled by the Prince of Persia team and I hate that part. In some instances loading took forever, but that was a PC edition so there are a few elements in play. Even after the introduction when you arrive in London will you get into a squirm who lifts your pocket, you chase and then you need to fight someone (2 persons in this case) Assassins Creed 2, AC Brotherhood, 3 and Unity anyone?

Of course there is more ‘synchronisation location’ here, but that is the one repetitive element I do not object to that much. It shows up the graphics (which has always been awesome) and it is one way to upgrade the map, but that is it, upgrading the map, not buying what you must seek, but upgrading what any synchronisation offers. Did no one at Ubisoft consider that? Oh and again chests all over the place, in the age of Queen Victoria, do you really think that a chest only you will reach has silk money and other things waiting? I can go on for hours, but if you like the game, you will get it, if you don’t you will not bother reading this (which is fair enough), so after that part it is time to get onto the next game. It will not be Fallout 4 as that game is 3 hours away. At the end of the month the GOTY edition of Bloodborne will arrive. Now, this game is not for the weak, it is near impossible to play and I have not been able to finish this game. Yet, I will not give up because it is graphically one of the most beautiful games I ever beheld. All this whilst I see another part of AC Syndicate passes my eyes with particular view on the bad scripted AI and the glitched civilian reaction to you the player. The reason for both games is that both have awesome graphics, but as Bloodborne is unplayable because of the high challenge level, AC becomes almost unplayable due to the faulty approach. If AC had no glitches but remains unplayable because the challenge is massive I would end up revering the game as I did in the time of AC 2 and AC Brotherhood.

Yet here is the kicker, is it all me?

I have always shied away from racing games as it was never my cup of tea, RPG and stealth games were. This is why I have had massive issues with the AC range, but is that fair? I believe that my view matters here, but it is for you the reader to decide how my view adheres to YOUR view of the game, because it is about you the gamer! I can only offer my view and hope that your view is enhanced, nothing more. Whatever you truly enjoy is what you enjoy, so keep that in mind. Another game to keep in mind in November is the nextgen release for Deadpool. Now consider the next paragraph.

In the first I was never a fan of that comic, never followed the character and never played the console editions. There are a few things on this game. It is one of the most politically incorrect games you will find at present. It looks nice graphically. It is smooth, the graphics have a nice comic book look to all of it. So as the doorbell goes and the narrative goes ‘let’s forget about the boobs and go for pecs and biceps’ you know that this gamer is decently over the top. So as you learn how to control Deadpool in original new ways.

So even as you are reading this now, this part was written after midnight. Yes, Fallout 4 is here. I will not bore you with the intro, the explanation that you will read everywhere or the codes. Let’s get to basics. Graphically the game is awesome, I had a go at the PS4 version and the intro that you will likely have seen in many places shows the intro in a decent way. Controls are very much like the previous versions of Fallout, so if you played those, you are well on your way. If this is new then realise a few little things. The interaction is about freedom, in this version it is a lot more about freedom and a little less about carrying all kinds of things and not knowing whether you need them yes or no. the development is also as YOU see fit, so if you are a slugger (slam bam fisticuffs), ‘tchk tchk bang’ (gun nut), or squeak squeak slice (stealth), you have a freedom of choice to go your own way. For the non-initiate I still feel that a first need is intelligence and repair skills (do not decide now, finish reading the article). You see, whatever direction you take, intelligence gives you skills faster and repair gives you better weapons and in addition more revenue from selling them. So we might consider there is a small flaw in the game, but that is not entirely true, it is the way of the world the game is set in. So what should you do? That is the beauty of Fallout 4, you decide and whatever you decide, there is no wrong here, there is just your choice and unlike in real life, you must live with the consequences of the choices you make. In real life you just blame someone else.

Now for the truth, after AC Syndicate (or Unity for that matter), does the game have bugs. Well, I can tell you that this is a fair certainty. So far I have not crossed any, but that will be a mere matter of time. Skyrim had bugs, Fallout New Vegas had its share of bugs and this one will have them, yet in this case we must also consider two parts. Fallout 4 is completely open, so in many cases you can go around such an issue, in the past patches did come out and they resolved many (not all) issues. Will this be the same? It is too soon to tell, but when I learn, I will inform. For now realise that a good game remains a good game and that some things (like open worlds) tend to come at a price, but is that what you wanted to hear?

That is not the main issue, is the game worth it all? So far as I see it, with Rise of the Tombraider the answer is no, with Fallout 4 the answer is yes. Is there another game you seek? Than look for it, perhaps read the review and if you do, always read more than one and decide after you get the goods from a reliable source. You see I do not side with the IGN review, but I stop short form disagreeing with it, because a gaming review tends to be a personal one. In this case Lucy O’Brien writes “Although I could have done with a few more puzzles and fewer firefights“, which was a given in previous versions, but as I saw it to the part I saw, it was massively repetitive form the previous game, so I had an issue there. Another part is what Lucy experienced, which is fair enough “She’s such a potent fighter that I didn’t find any real incentive to avoid combat altogether“, that is in truth the formula that Lara relied upon in the path, yet the steal options we got introduced to in earlier games were very enticing, too often there was a trigger forcing a fight, but the idea of taking a decent part out in stealth is too appealing to ignore, it is one addition I truly enjoyed. In addition, the quote “For true completionists, there are plenty of relics, documents, murals and caves to discover, which can take an average play through from 15 hours to around 30 or 40” implies much improvements above the previous version, yet the initial issue remains that 15 hours (likely just the main game) is not good enough. It is slightly less than the very first game which required 10% of the power we see nowadays, and the game was contained on a disc holding less than 2% of what a Blu-ray can store, so the question becomes, is it value for money, which is something I will let you decide.

Now it is time to take a look at fallout 4. I went in with the experience of the previous games, so I made my character on the Xbox One and I went off to the races (oops, I almost forgot, the installation takes a little over half an hour, so feel free to start the installation and prepare the room with snacks and drinks so that you do not look at that super slow installation progress counter. The game began and here I made an interesting ‘mistake’ Fallout 4 plays in the same way the previous versions did, but that turned out to be an oops moment. This is not something I regret. You see, the play is the same, but the game is also vastly different. An important issue here is the fact that guns no longer degrade! It has changed into upgrading weapons. It does so more versatile than you see in the Bioshock games. Now it will be about finding junk, scrapping it and use those parts to upgrade the weapons you have. In addition perks now have several levels, which means that certain perks will receive additional options. I will not go into this any deeper, because exploration of what you find and what you could be is part of the massive fun that Fallout 4 is delivering in this game.

As for the rest?

Well, building your settlement is a fun addition and that fact is not giving away anything (shown in many demos), but you will soon learn that this part is a lot more important and it shows a new side to the fallout 4 games and it just shows why Bethesda still rules the RPG land. So far, the game is showing me everything I wanted to see, including a decent level of surprises. For me gaming will now stop for a week as exams are about to start. I am still uncertain how bad my exam scores will be in the end, but that will not stop me from fighting for every point I did not get (I am an incurable optimist).

Whatever you do, make sure you enjoy what you do! (I am referring to gaming and not the equally rewarding horizontal lambada)

See you all next week!

 

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