Tag Archives: Samuel Axon

Bones and Boobs in gaming

Gaming has two sides, the hardware and the software side, or as some might call it the boobs and bones of gaming. We will look at the boobs later (desert always comes last), yet the bones are another matter. Forbes (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2019/06/04/there-are-tough-times-ahead-for-the-playstation-4-and-xbox-one/#3ca33e3562b4) gives us ‘There Are Tough Times Ahead For The PlayStation 4 And Xbox One‘, I do not really agree, and if so then mostly for the Xbox side, but the man makes a decent point and that is always a good reason to contemplate an article.

Bones

Even as he makes the case, I believe him to be wrong on certain matters. The numbers only partially support him. In case of Microsoft, they had a good run on the Xbox360 and they had decent sales even beyond the Xbox One launch. The reasons was that those with too small a budget decided to pick up a pre-owned console as those prices went down by a lot. Even today, people still buy Xbox 360 games, which is pretty astounding. The premise holds true for the PS3, from day one the PS4 was the child to have and for the next two years there will be plenty of people upgrading from PS4 to PS4 pro as Sony will be dumping the prices for that puppy. The market will slow down, but I believe that Sony has a good foundation to work with, Microsoft a little less so.

Nintendo remains the larger question in this. They are still ascending by leaps and bounds and even now we see in Forbes (three weeks ago actually) ‘The Nintendo Switch Just Topped The PS4’s Lifetime Sales In Japan‘, and that sounds overwhelming, yet the global numbers with PS4 on 97 million and Switch on 35 million gives the equal global sales towards the Xbox, but not the PlayStation. It has only been two years, whilst the other two have been around 7, the Nintendo Switch is still gaining momentum and it is doing so faster than last year. The fact that two of the most enticing (and addictive) games are free helps matters. With Fallout Shelter and Gems of war being great games to play on the Switch, we see a larger appreciation of the console. Nintendo upped the ante by handing all those with an online subscription (less than $40 a year), we see that they all get access to the old games from Donkey Kong, Metroid and Super Mario Bros, with dozens of additional games, all for free for those with the online account. It is one of the most enticing deals you will find in console land. As such the Switch goes on and on and on. That and the pre-owned market makes me oppose the view that Dave Thier has to some degree. the part that is also in debate is “I could even imagine PlayStation 4 sales recovering after the PlayStation 5 comes out and people realize they can still get good use of the old machine, which is likely to see a price-cut“, I believe that he setting is sound, yet I have seen Sony Marketing in action, as such they will cut prices on all options long before the sales recovery issue becomes a real issue for Sony. With exclusive titles like Last of Us 2 (2020), Death Stranding, Sekiro, Ghosts of Tsushima (2020), there is everything to look forward to and besides the fact that there are still plenty of people without a PS4 (or Xbox One for that matter), many of us (including me) still have not upgraded to the PS4pro (a budget issue), for many mainly because we have no 4K TV and that is the big factor (equally so for the Xbox One X), so as Sony starts bundling it’s console with a 4K TV, we might see another rush to upgrade. With several brands (including Sony) offering 55” or larger 4K TV’s for less than $1000 at present, the push for package deals will be very alive at the end of this year pushing the options of additional consoles right up to 2020 at that point the PS5 (and whatever Microsoft has) will become an optional issue. We have seen that many day one people held on to their previous console. I still have the PS3 and Xbox 360; I just never expected that the 360 would be higher regarded than the Xbox One (by me). These are all elements that play a part, as such I partially oppose the view Forbes gave us and I believe to be handing out the correct version (I have been proven correct often enough).

I agree with his slowing down part, but not to the degree he expects it, and the additional factor is not the slowing down, it might be: “New consoles pose question marks for the industry, and people are inclined to wait for answers before making large purchases“. I believe that to be the correct statement, but there was one other factor, it is 4K gaming and that is slow because the larger group of gamers does not have a 4K TV at present, as 4K will be the bees knees this Christmas, we will see a push to a much larger degree and Sony has an advantage over Sony here. It is how I got my PS3 and I never regretted that, especially as that TV was dirt cheap in those days, I expect Sony to do the same caper this year (and other brands as well), which is as I see it the larger stage for the difference between Dave Thier and me, as well as the large purchasing part, there is no ‘wait for answers‘ anymore on 4K TV, as such it optionally prevents a larger slowdown on the consoles and to be honest, you need to see Xbox One 4K with AC Origin to believe just how amazing 4K can be, it blew my socks off let me tell you that; and yes it was on a Xbox One X. Ubisoft & Microsoft actually got that part truly right.

Boobs

Yup, we got there, or as the Bloodhound Gang would state: ‘Hooray for Boobies‘ Yet the software is always a happy place for any gamer, whether it is Minecraft or Spiderman, seeing stuff in 4K is always reason to cheer. So when we look at value how angry do we need to get? When we are confronted with a AAA game (triple A game) we think it will be about quality, but it is not. It merely means that the game comes from a ‘mid-sized or major publisher, typically having higher development and marketing‘ and as I see it, it will be mostly about the marketing. So here comes Ubisoft who as far as I can tell is the only one who truly mangled and downgraded the IP of two franchises, namely Assassins Creed and optionally now Far Cry.

In comes a hard truth: ‘AAA game development has been identified as one environment where crunch time and other working pressures that negatively affect the employees are particularly evident‘, a given that is handed to us by Tweaktown and GamaSutra. In Tweaktown we see: ‘Ex-Ubisoft dev reveals the grim reality‘ with the quote: “it’s more like a mechanized assembly line than a dream job“, this might be a true stage, yet in all this it is not the creators, it is its board of directors as well as their marketing department. Like several software makers, setting a realistic goal is not something either department is any good at; the horrendous Far Cry 5 is clearly evidence of that. I completely disagree with the ratings that IGN (89%) and the 81% that Metacritic gave, I fall in line towards Digital Trends and their 60%. There should be a stage that games like that can no longer be called AAA games when its rating to become this below average. I even have some reservations on the games I traded in for this new version (at $23). Far Cry 5 infuriates me; they really had to do a better job. Not the graphics guys (gals included), graphically Montana is so overwhelmingly amazing that I would be willing to move to Hope County with the next available flight (if there is a decent job there). The story is something I leave in the middle. It is over the top, but there is a side that is actually enticing and you haven’t felt hatred until you are getting a tattoo on your chest by John Seed, the characters (even the over the top ones) are impressive. It is the game play itself that got to me in a massive way. To name just a few:

  1. Planes that touch a tree top dead in their track and in some cases end up on the ground in perfect working order without a scratch.
  2. Like the screaming eagles in Far Cry Primal (one every other minute) the stage comes when planes are there and they are there all the time, I have shot down enough to make a nation go bankrupt, but not for the Seed family, they merely seed more planes (or is that conceive?) And it is not merely me; I found hundreds of posts of gamers irritated by that, it seems that some people at Ubisoft are unwilling to learn.
  3. Spawn, not the Todd McFarlane hero, but the spawning of opponents. In a bunker scene (trying to avoid spoilers), the troops started spawning in front of me, which is a big no-no! This all indicates that the game was either never clearly tested, or the test results were ignored, either way that is an easy 20% degrading on any 89% score, so we are already on 69%. The fact that these issues were never addressed one year down the road implies additional failings on the Ubisoft front.
  4. Ballistics anyone? I love my sniper rifles, it gives me an edge and even in a bunker, the rifle can be a huge advantage, even if you only have 35 bullets to work with (unless you find more ammo). So when that rifle suddenly does not kill with a head shot, but only knock of the helmet, I am speechless. You see, anyone who knows their weapons would know that a helmet is protecting in nature, but the impact of a .50 that travels at 3,029 feet/second giving an impact of 13,350 ft-lbf (foot pound force) does not merely take off the helmet, it rips of the entire head. Now I get and accept that Ubisoft is not giving us that image, but to not see a headshot as an immediate kill is just stupid and silly. That should be 35 instant kills, even in the chest the power alone will crush the chest to death, and no Kevlar thickness in the world will stop that.
  5. The enemy avalanche. I get that throughout the game, it becomes more and more taxing, but the boss fights with wave after wave, where topless people keep running after 5-7 shots is just silly. And it is not 2-3 we get thrown into a stage of dozens and Ubisoft is unable to learn that wave after wave gets to be tedious and actually does not make a game better. Now there is an arcade more and I am not touching it, arcade is arcade and there the rules tend to be slightly different, which is fair enough. Yet in the normal game, Ubisoft makes the same mistakes we saw in Far Cry Primal and Far Cry 4. What was Far Cry 3 has become less and less (as I personally see it).

There is a lot Ubisoft got right too and the extra’s (like the Vaas outfit) and particularly the outfits you get when you have another Ubisoft game is cool, an immediate reward for those who have other Ubisoft games like the Rainbow six outfit is actually really cool to see (I did not have the game so it did not unlock for me), but the effort towards its gamers must be recognised. The bubbleheads (for in the car) if you have certain games is also cool and gives a little extra a fact that has always mattered to gamers.

Tweak town gives a lot more, but when I read: “When people realize they’re just one very replaceable person on a massive production chain, you can imagine it impacts their motivation“, I see it and it might impact, but that is an HR problem, not on my watch here, it is an element I care not for at present. There is also: “How do you get the right message to the right people? You can’t communicate everything to everyone, there’s just too much information. There are hundreds of decisions being taken every week. Inevitably, at some point, someone who should have been consulted before making a decision will be forgotten. This creates frustration over time” that is an issue, it is management that is either not there, not properly ready or even worse, it is ignorant. That also gives light to the connection of testing, an issue that Ubisoft has had for at least a decade. The experience that even now in Far cry 5, the event of looting a corpse and switching the weapon they dropped are nearly always overlapping, making a quick grab for ammo impossible and at times even disastrous. An issue not fixed since Far Cry 3. The article (at https://www.tweaktown.com/news/49863/ex-ubisoft-dev-reveals-grim-reality-aaa-games-development/index.html) had a few more items, but it was less important for me in this case. Gamasutra (at https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/282922/AAA_game_dev_lifestyle_is_unwinnable_says_veteran_game_designer_Amy_Hennig.php) gives a few more items, issues like: “There are people who never go home and see their families. They have children who are growing up without seeing them” get a different rating, it is either a lack of time management, or slave labour, one is a choice the other is criminal; you tell me which is which. Yes, I trivialise the issue here, but at some stage you need to recharge and if you decide not to do that, you burn out. It is the quote: “It’s pressure that rolls downhill and piles onto those behind the industry’s biggest releases, forcing them to go above and beyond to meet rapidly approaching deadlines” that hits pay dirt, they either haven’t learned to neuter their marketing department, or the board members have forgotten what realistic time frames are. Either way it tends to stop proper game testing and that is how we get a screwed up product and we have seen that from AC Unity onwards, Ubisoft has had way too many events like that. As such as we see the quote referring to ‘over-expectant publishers‘, the view we see matches mine pretty much flawless. If you cannot control your marketeers with their hype creation, you fall flat and you get the pressures that should have been avoided in the first place. The evidence is there too, for example Project red with Witcher 3 as well as Cyberpunk 2077. There no one is fussed about the 2020 release, we all know that they broke the mould with Witcher 3 and we want to see that again, we the gamers are willing to wait for excellence, mainly because it has become such a rare thing. A 93% rating comes at a price. It is the oldest stage of sales.

You can have something cheap, something fast and something good, but you can only chose two of the three elements, so the product ends up arriving slow, becoming a bad product or an expensive one, which of those three can you live with the best? Of those three the late arrival is the best (my personal view), but as far as Ubisoft goes, they got that choice wrong more than once, because they were unwilling to delay the release late, costing them points all over the place. It is me not liking Odyssey that requires me to quote Samuel Axon who wrote a massive story on ArsTechnica. He ends with: “Odyssey was not a perfect game. But it was the perfect game to win back this series superfan. It’s so good, I want to go back and replay older games in the series—even some of the bad ones—just to examine and appreciate the evolution“, I get his vision yet it is not my view on the game and that is fine. Ubisoft does not need to appease me, it needs to protect its IP and there we might not see eye to eye on the matter. This is fine, I am merely one view and that too needs to be taken into account, Samuel clearly had another view on the take and I accept it because the article (at https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/03/i-played-11-assassins-creed-games-in-11-years-and-odyssey-made-them-all-worth-it) is an absolute must for any Assassins Creed fan.

When I look back, no matter how much we like to stare at the boobies, when they are not the ones (or shape, or size) you hoped to see, the interest fades really fast (unless you are a hungry baby) and that is the core for Ubisoft, the absolute essential part was proper testing and fixing (optionally with a day one patch) is something they seemingly have not been steered towards for too long and it shows. As I see it, they efficiently massacred two IP’s at present; the question becomes what will happen with Watchdogs 3? When we accept (I do) that the second was way better than the first, I fear for the third, because they need to get it right. I only got Far Cry 5 well over a year later when it was sold at a mere 17% of the full price gives rise to what we are willing to pay. When you consider that this was a game with a budget close to $100 million and a rising amount of gamers will no longer consider it at full price, and even as it made $310 million, how much money did Ubisoft in the end miss out on? Going home with $200 more is still good, but what could they have gotten? I wonder if they learn this lesson too late, perhaps it is me and perhaps I expect too much from the gamers of today. I merely chase excellence in gaming, and a game that is created substandard will not ever give a feeling of excellence, which is sad on many levels, especially when someone forked out an 9 figure number.

Just consider that GTA5 made $6 billion so far, Red Dead Redemption had a $725 million opening weekend, and that list goes on, all games that have a 90% score of better. It shows when we see that (according to VGChartz) Far Cry 5 seemingly sold less than 4 million copies, God of war far beyond 11 million, and that is also set toUbisoft being on three systems, whilst God of War was on only one system. I see it as the main difference between a 70% game and a 95% game. A difference of 250% or better in sold copies. I reckon that Ubisoft needs to focus on quality a lot more than they are currently doing and that view is shared by global player on an increasing larger scale endangering Ubisoft initial revenue more and more.

 

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