Tag Archives: Skyrim

Chimes are wind translators

The stage was not set in this day, there was another day and another week, but the origin of the order was always known, each mistress of the house kept records of what happened, and they also tend to keep record when things did not happen, or more precisely when nothing happened. The scope of all gave the exceptions power and made them more insightful. The first Mistress of the house of chimes always knew that. The House of Chimes was a little different, even as they knew that the monks of the liquid mountain had the strength from within, the house of chimes bestowed powers. The mistress did from day one. Only women were allowed in this house, it was not because there was something wrong with the men, but for some reason the power could not be handed to another man. The mistress suspected that a similar reason existed with the cave of monks. The House of Chimes had one mistress in charge, two teachers and each teacher had 4 students. As the mistress gave power to all in the beginning, they learned over time that the powers were shaped by the teachers. As the powers of each student grew stronger in the first 10 years, it would not grow stronger after that. That had always been the case, yet the powers would mature more and more as the students slept in the houses of the teachers. There was no real explanation for that. It was possible for students to learn more than one speciality, but that required the student to spend more time in the house of chimes with the second teacher. One teacher taught the student the powers of the wind, the other would teach the students the powers of the lightning, that is how it had always been. These women had a staff with at the top an empty vial. The staff was made from a combination of wood and silver, with a silver lightning symbol surrounding the vial. The women had the ability to call for wind and tornado’s. Beyond that they could summon lightning. Even was some might not have ben impressed, their abilities are set in speed. They can move fast, really fast and as the wind goes around a person, the wind informs them and highlights dangers, animals and people. Even the weakest lightning will cripple any person hit by it, or so the story goes. The women are natural healers and illusionists. The wind makes nearly everything light as a feather, and allowed them to climb near vertical walls. Their last ability is merely whispered about, it has not be seen, the women have the ability to throw voices and more important make sounds that will deafen anyone who hear it. All seemingly useless powers, but that is only to the untrained. If you cannot hear anyone, you cannot hear them approach or get away, that is if their lightning hadn’t twisted you in some bizarre way. 

It was a soft night, there was close to no wind when the student walked over the hill. She was looking around her and saw no one. The dark was comforting, ever as the night was dark, she saw near perfect, the and would warn her of dangers and that was good, not only because she hd no lust to cause harm to an animal, she was not too fond of damaging brigands either. It seemed so pointless. She got to a fork when she noticed the fog in the distance, the fog seemed so unnatural. It has a local look, no more than 200 meters in diameter it was then that she noticed the 4 shapes, they looked like brigands and she held her staff a little tighter, it was then she noticed a fifth shape in the fog, this shape was clearly a man, but he looked different, even as the brigands were red, as they always were, the fifth shape was light yellow, light as the sun. He seemed to avoid the others and struck one after another with a precision strike. She considered that this was someone from the floating house, she hd heard of them, but this was the first time that she saw one. She kept her distance and saw the entire event unfold, the brigands had no real chance. She also noticed that the brigands were not dead. Merely out for the count, and as the fog lifted she noticed the floating house member walk away. She watched him for a little while from a far safe distance, and as he went north towards the village, she walked in eastern direction. It was her first encounter with one of them, she was not about to test his feelings towards diplomacy. It was then that she noticed the hollow tree, this tree was different, she had never seen one like this before, there was a clear drop down, and there was a a corridor of sorts under the tree. She considered a few things, and the only thing pushing her was her curiosity, she contemplated the action and she hesitated for a second and jumped into the hole. 

This was the 4th house. We have one more house to add to the mixture it will be the house of bones. The story cannot merely rely on the 4 elements and in this we set the stage for necromancers to enter the fold. When we consider the House of Forests, The Floating House, Monks of the Sulphur Caves, the House of Chimes and the House of Bones, we have 5 houses. A person can only become a member of one, we set the stage of replayability. The player is not limited to the house, that person can also become an artisan or guild member. A larger stag is required and we only looked at the arcane part. My biggest issue with The Elder Scrolls is not a negative one, they had a good grasp of anything, but the stage where a person can be EVERYTHING was a little off putting. If a skilled master is merely a skilled master in one, then the stage of a larger power was close to impossible. Yes I loved Skyrim, but I had become so powerful that my Dragonbone bow was able to kill close to any dragon with a few arrows. Too much of it came across as a little bit of a steeple chase, not a challenging one. As I chewed on these elements I set a different light for playing the RPG game. If I can set the stage of a 100 hour game and make sure that these people can play the game 5 times and in different settings they would end up with a 500 hour game, a good value. So I set pout in a different direction, where the choices you make will decide where you wake up (sorry Richard). It has been done before but s fr as I know my RPG games, only once. So as we are on an island that is 200Km by 175Km, there is every chance to play the game more than once and see different settings (well I try). 

A stage that is not merely replayable, the stage where the path in a cave, a mine, or an underground fortress is different for a floating house member or a house of bones member. You can have multiple goals in any one place, but a person can only do one. It also leaves us with the stage where a person can get stuck in a place where you need one skill, but the lack of it stops you. Issues that are very real but the RPG seems to shy away from that path, there is a Montessori approach to gaming, you have to get a price, you have to win, there is always a price. It seemingly makes for weak adventurers. And I have the sage where it is different, now if we add time played (like 1 year for every 10 hours played), we get a career stage where you can become a better hero than the previous hero you played. To do this we set the stage that there needs to be  a larger story to follow and the graveyard can have merely have one type of hero, which lives you with 5 people to play (a wink to Diablo), so as such we see the larger stage, but I am merely at the start of it all, now that I know what the fifth house will be, I can consider the next stage, because in any RPG game, the story is everything. And gain this is free public domain for any Sony exclusive.

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Another furlong (to the race)

Yup, I stated and I keep (my word for the most), and as my mind wonders towards the new RPG, I need to set in motions the cogs, not the ones in my mind, but any game has cogs, the more it is set to a system, the more natural it comes across. As the player fathoms how things are set, they will also set in motion certain expectations towards continuances of the game.

So here we see the first cog, if you remember yesterday, I spoke about the fur guild, but it is merely one of three (in the initial design. It does not matter if you consider that part the green or the red cog, so the house of worship would be the other colour. When we look into the combinations we get a larger setting, a sort of interaction. The fur guild, the clothing guild, and the  smithing guild are three parts of the cog, and the cog could evolve further. What I call the house of worship would have evolved from the scribes, it gave us the coin-masters (banks and accountants), scribes (recorders and historians), evokers and casters. This makes sense when we recall the actual meaning of evocation (the act of bringing or recalling a feeling, memory, or image to the conscious mind), and as the stage grows, so do the cogs, starting with no more than 5 (three is better) gives you the setting towards a stage where the story can grow. Three is better because you can see how the cogs are maximised, before you add n-teeth to any cog. The interaction becomes important, as a person might become more than merely a trainee of furs. Someone who sets furs and has coin-master skills would be more effective in running a shop and making the more successful. And this stage also impact the coin-master on all guild trades. Scribes would be more effective in creating effective armour, because of historic learnings and evokers might add additional protection on any armour or weapon, now here is the kicker, by not merely adding them, but by limiting the amount of teeth of any cog you can inhabit, makes the game very replayable. It sets a stage where person can be close to very different in each gameplay, giving a larger joy to the game, in all this, when we make sure that the game also evolves different we get a larger bang for the buck and that is where Oblivion failed, you could do it all (which is not wrong), but when you get to do it all, you get through the game a lot faster and in all this the challenge dissipates. It was a flaw they largely avoided in Fallout 3: New Vegas, as the good person could not do all the missions, the bad person got to have a life in the ‘freed’ prison, it might seem small, but the larger implications could be seen over time.

So as we see the cog on two elements, it becomes a larger stage when the cogs interact with optional abilities down the road, for example the druid path cannot be gotten as you slay animals for furs, the arboreal might do so, as such we see that the hunter (bow) gets side, the druid another side, the smith might become the wielder of mauls, it is that difference that sets you apart. Even as the smith can wield the bow, the skills there will go slower than the maul would. In RPG exploring your options is half the fun (at least for me it is), I remember that in Neverwinter Nights (the original) the Scythe had benefits, we lost out on this view in several RPG games and it is time to consider a larger stage where you might get 100 hours of fun as one character, but an additional 80 hours as a second character. Th stage where missions are depending on the class you end up being and setting it to such a way that you are not aware of what you are missing out in the first play through, is what will amaze you the second time around. 

Oh and this came forth (from my devious brain) in less then 5 hours (all added up), so when we see the claims that it is so hard to create on, there is truth there, but it also depends on the visionaries they hire, that is the lesson I hope to instil on Microsoft as I offer these ideas to Sony.

By the way, when you consider the guild structures, and we add water options, agrarian options and we interact on three levels, how many times could you replay a game (apart from the locations) before the game bores you? Consider that some still play Skyrim which was released on 11.11.11, so when the nextgen consoles are released, the game will be 9 years old. That is a record worthy of slaying, so we need to come to the party with a massive (optionally spiked) bat.

Have fun considering what else the future of gaming has to offer.


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The house of RPG

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

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


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The set stage

It started a week ago, not directly, but the thought was born at that point, it was the realisation that the stage is set to the player, the stage is empty, especially we set the stage as we are playing an RPG game, it is perhaps the largest issue that a game can have. The danger of repetition. To get there we need to return to 1985. I was a happy chappy. I had my CBM-64 and the whole world was in front of me. That year two games came to my attention, well, not completely, the first game I had already seen as a friend had a BBC Micro B. Yet getting the games was an issue, but there it was on a Friday I was made aware that a shop in Breda (90 minutes by train) had both games. It was odd as I was living in Rotterdam, but there it was a dealer in Breda had both Ultima-3 and Elite, both for the CBM-64 and I was off to the races (the train) and a little less than 2 hours later I was in Breda having bought 1 copy of each game. My love for these two games continues to this day. Of course Elite is now Elite Dangerous (and a few thousand times bigger) and Ultima no longer exists, but the stage is there. Yet as I remember my days in Elder Scrolls Oblivion, we tend to set course for the most beneficial route, but what happens when that is not an option? In case of Ultima, what happens when 3,4,5, and 6 are played, but in this, what happens when we influence the development of the game for others? Ultima is an excellent example as the map remained close to the same in 4,5,6, and 7. But those who have played Oblivion, perhaps you remember the Rockmilk Cave north of Leyawin. Because there are two fighting parties, you get to have the drop n those who survive and get a lot more loot, early in the game that matters, and it is close to a city, so it is a ka-ching moment. But what happens, when everyone does that? We get away with it the first time, but what happens when the people in that cave become a lot more adapt? What happens when the second time around the people are suddenly 1 or 2 levels higher and that happens in EVERY subsequent visit? This takes me back to Ultima 5, near Empath Abbey there is a good source of Spider Silk, so what happens when everyone does that? What happens when we suddenly have to ACTUALLY explore to find what we need? I have been thinking of a first person approach (an Oblivion approach) to the Ultima games. You see, that game had everything from the get go and it would take plenty of designers 10 years to get close there, so what happens when we get the stage like Oblivion, but with the entire land of Britannia mapped? The 4th game would b a great start, but even as we start, we set our mark on the land. As such roads will develop different. We will end up having much better roads between Britain and Paws. There was some form of an economy in Ultima 7, but that can evolve from the 4th game onward. This sets for a very different game, as such when we start Ultima 5, we are set in a land that evolved from OUR actions in Ultima 4, not just that, as markers of thousands of players are aggregated, the map might evolve differently, We could see that New Magincia and Buccaneers Den would be much larger cities the the places we had (and reset) from 4 up to 7. It is a set shape of RPG that we have not seen before, and that makes it exciting. Even as I was (initially) designing Elder Scrolls VII: Restoration, I had something similar in mind. Not merely a stage for a quest, but a stage where we set in motion the action, but beyond managing resources, we get to have no say in the matter. 

It is  stage that is enabled and disabled by us. We tend to forget about the latter part, but it is an equally important stage, because it sets for a different stage of replaying a game. Consider Oblivion and Skyrim, what happens when we set the new Dark Brotherhood? What if we choose not to place the new sanctuary not in Dawnstar? What if there had been an option to place it near Whiterun? The choice is then set for re-playability, which was a focal point for me in TES7: Restoration. 

In addition, I had set more than one red line in the design, a red line the follows markers as you play the game, but markers that cannot be influenced after voices are made. Basically, you get to sleep in the bed you make, you do not get to design the bed. Makers of RPG’s have been so involved in getting everything there that we drown in options, but at times, the gamer can merely inhabit the stage, he/she does not design the stage, it is the cornerstone of something we want to replay and when you consider that Skyrim is still going strong since 11.11.11, what do you think happens when we take away some f the training wheels and give the player the fun of playing and the consequence of choice? It is something that had been lacking in RPG’s for the longest time. I set that in motion in my design, but in the end, it is what the owners of the IP decide to do. 

It was the only issue I had with Skyrim, the grinding to get to the legendary dragon, and I know there are part I missed (not many), yet it gets me back to the avoidance of grinding. What if levels are not the only way of measuring? Why if the player class needs to have at least 1,2 or 3 skills at 100? The thief might have bow, lockpick and sneak at 100, but what would the Mage have? What  would the fighter or assassin have? We forgot to set the stage to a larger field, I cannot tell whether that was intentional or not, I reckon that the PS4 already had the power to take care of these matters, but that is me. What if every skill will give the player an ability at 100? Not skill point driven, but automatically, it could be something trivial. For Sneak it might be pussyfoot for 60 seconds, for the Bow it might be the arrow dagger, for Restoration it might be paralyse soul, for illusion it might be daylight, and so on. We seemingly have forgotten that there are any rods to a solution, but some of the makers (due to no fault of their own) have made most missions a linear stage and we have to evolve from that. Limitations is one way to do that. When you were playing Oblivion (or Skyrim), how many benefits did you get by going to White River Watch on the second play (Skyrim) as soon as possible or Crumbling Mine (Oblivion)? We can up the NPC level on subsequent plays, but what can we gain by limiting what. Person COULD find at the first few levels? What happens when we set a randomiser to some loot not on whether it is there, but where it is? In Skyrim some books are always in the same place, what if that changes? Consider that we have 4 levels of loot, what if those levels (when it is not a quest item) are 4 mixed piles? As such, we could run to the Milkrun Cave, but what we get there would not be a guarantee, in addition, some loot can only be found ONCE! As such certain loot will not be there to spike our personal coffers, just a thought. 

In this day and age, we are not merely on one system, as such we should see what benefits the games could get, it is my personal belief that this is not done enough. I get it, makers like Ubisoft (merely an example) like to be on ALL systems, but what if we set another premise? What if we use the power of Sony and for example Google Stadia to the max what that system can give? Will the gamer not end up with a much better experience? If you doubt that, consider Metroid Prime 1 and 2 on GameCube, a game that is still mostly unsurpassed on Xbox One and PS4 11 years later, an entire generation later, the is the premise we need to return to a field that is maximised, not equalised by the lowest system around. 

Just my point of view, have a great weekend.


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Multiple rulers

We have a ruler at times. A ruler so we can see whether the size measures up to the setting we held ourselves to, and a size to what we hold others. We are all like that, and sometimes we use more than one, it is almost like we set a standard metrical and then another one to get the inch setting. There is one stage we avoid; not on purpose, but the stage we set because we did not think of it. That is the stage that I found myself in this weekend. Anyone who has a Playstation 4 (or better) has either been playing the Last of us part 2, or has been contemplating playing it. There might be the smallest group that did not (and that is fair) but that group is really really small. It started in 2013, a (small) player named naughty dog, famous for Crash Bandicoot and a few other titles, had an idea and made that game, that game was titled The last of us, we might not have realised it at the time but gaming history was written that very moment. They made the game that heralded the end of the Playstation 3 on a high. The game was graphically, musically and technically at the very top of gaming, do not take my word for it, the game got over 200 game of the year awards, which is a record by itself, so when it was remastered for the Playstation 4, I did not hesitate to get it, now there is the second part and what I have seen so far is blowing my mind (again). It als gave me the idea to come up with the two ruler rule. So far the only three passing that standard are Naughty Dog, CD Project Red and Bethesda. This does not mean that others are not good, some are great. Yet to fit this measurement you need to be better than the best. I believe that those makers could have turned their game into a movie and it would be as groundbreaking and as appreciated as the game. As I see it CD Project Red did that by getting the Netflix the Witcher made. OK, they cheated by getting Superman to play the lead, but still they got it done and it is every bit as amazing as the game was. Excellence is transcendental (or so I believe) and I feel certain that the Last of US (both 1 and 2) would make amazing movies/mini series. I played part 2 to some extent and then I remembered (I thought back to the first one) and I decided to play it again. Even now, 7 years later, the first game is as overwhelming as any new game is, yes, the second one surpasseds the first one by a fair bit, but both of them leave most others in their wake, the games are that good. This is not bad for the others, there will always be rocksteady, there will always be rockstar and they will endear the gamers in their own way, there is no doubt about it, yet when we see the bullet point memo people at EA and Ubisoft, they are done for. The few franchises they hide behind will not help them, even now, their games at 70%-80% reduced rate are a debatable buy and that is not a good place to be in. When a two billion company like Ubisoft gets passed over by what some regards as small studios, we need to realise that gaming has been on the fringe of technology since the 80’s. Some people decided to give the thought that gaming too is iteration (like every year an Assassins Creed game), some exploited other means, some good and some bad, and before some think that Ubisoft is all bad, they did bring us Assassins Creed 2 (and brotherhood), Far Cry 3, AC Origins, Watchdog 2, The Division and a few others, when we look past the iteration, we see that they make good games, if only they were properly tested and vetted before release, it is the largest flaw that Ubisoft brings us today. And it is getting noticed more and more as we take notice of games like The Witcher and The Last of Us. Wecan add games like Elite Dangerous and Subnautica and the remastered edition of System Shock (hopefully 2020), we see that the original ideas are still there and they are wiping the floor with the iterative wannabe’s. You see the stage is changing and gamers are not completely aware.

We see the created hypes and we see how Microsoft is hiding behind the marketing cry ‘the most powerful system in the world’, yet they got defeated by the weakest system of them all (Nintendo Switch) and as Microsoft hides behind the hype screen we are all missing the larger point. As 4K gaming hits the front yard of many gamers this holiday season, they tend to forget that the games will be twice the size and so will the patches. In this situation consider that in places like Greece and Turkey a Ubisoft patch will take up to a day (estimated), a day per game downloading a patch. The UK, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, Italy and a few others have better connections, yet in these places in Rural areas their internet is not great, so the long term view of the approach that they are currently holding is that they will not be in a great place. Yes, France, Spain and Scandinavia the connection is well above decent, yet is that the same in rural areas? In France it is not and I just set the pulse point on millions of gamers who will be in an extremely agitated state soon enough, yet not if Ubisoft continues as it currently is. And we need to review that too. A game might seem amazing, yet in the 4K life, patches will be increasingly larger and larger. So what do you think will happen when a patch is not 38 GB, but 70 GB? How long until gamers lose their shit over this, because the second time it happens might already be enough for the gamer to demand a refund, and with some places having the 7 day purchase option in place, that cooldown will be enough to end the lifespan of places like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and Activision. Yes, I get it, others will be in a similar place, but consider keeping a list of all your games and all the patches that come through, who will win the patch race agitation list? 

Yes, we get it Bethesda will also be in a bad place, yet RPG games like Skyrim are too great and will always have patches coming their way, yet overall when I look back at the games like Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout 3, Fallout 4 the amount of patches have not been overwhelming. As I see it one breakpoint patch has had more to download then the sum of nearly all Bethesda games, that is the station we see, yet we forget that the station we face is nothing more than a small way station, the stations we are about to hit are proper terminals with larger needs. We need to measure what was and what will be to a much larger extent and use two rulers, the size of the game and the size of the patches, whilst we tally the number of patches. Breakpoint was regarded by gamers as the most disappointing game of 2019, 38GB of patches later and it is still up for debate, as I see it, they no longer have any freedom of movement, gaming will change but not in their direction, the games will need to be better and their infrastructure is not ready, the patch notes give a clear indication of that. So yes, we will see a console war, but we will see a lot more than that. Santa Monica Studios, Naughty Dog and a few others are ready and they make Playstation games. The people at Microsoft are not ready for the issues that sme games bring and their Azure cloud is useless at this stage, it is about innovative gaming, the iterative clowns have no place being here. We are about to see a console war and Microsoft could soon end up in 4th position, so when we consider the big three, who else will surpass them? Their marketing hype of the most powerful console for sale, and they forgot that they still needed good games to stay in that place, with less than half a dozen exclusive games, the pickings are slim for Microsoft, to see that you needed an additional ruler, a different stage of measuring. Just like the measurement of power, there are two ways of measuring it, all whilst the elements for both formulas were readily available, too many players were looking at one formula and forgot about the other one, and that is what the limelight will show at the end of the year and when that limelight shows bright, we will see that some players are done for, one ruler would not have shown it, they all focussed on the revenue and they forgot that revenue is hindered by the resistance that patches bring, these players forgot or basically ignored the danger of large patches and now that they are 26 weeks away from a new standard these players will panic, they will panic more and more and let marketing do the fight of the public arena all whilst it will merely stop activities for a few days and some patches required months. Now, we accept that both Sony and Microsoft have that house of Pox looming, but as I see it, Sony has more alternatives and in this fight, the one with alternatives is the most likely to win. In all this there is strength to any marketing endeavour, but its flaws are there too and once your board of directors start to earnestly believe the stories they tell, they have already painted themselves into a corner. 



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I started playing a new video game. Well, it is not new, I have played it 7 times (I think), I played it on the Xbox 360, the PS3,the Xbox One and the PS4. The game was released on 11/11/11 and it is called Skyrim. I have loved this game since its release and it all started with the predecessor Oblivion. So how does a game become this amazing? There is a parallel with the series I Claudius made in the 70’s. You see there are two distinct differences, this game is great, not great through marketing (Microsoft never learned that lesson). In I Claudius its greatness came from 4 elements. 

  1. The Script
  2. The Cast
  3. The Director
  4. The Environment

I believe that games have a similar side to it, and we can see the difference between a good game and a great game. Even as there is no real cast in Skyrim, the makers have to define the characters, on TV they are played but the impact is similar. It is the environment that has the greater pull, whilst it was Roman times for Claudius, the medieval era that the Elder Scrolls exhibit have a similar pull on people.

It drove me to make the first design for TES: Restoration, yet in all this, I do recognise that another Skyrim was not going to make it, gamers are innovative driven not iterative and we have seen this going back to Tomb Raider 2 (1997) and even before that. 

The first question becomes ‘How can we continue a franchise and remain innovative?’, the second one is ‘How can gaming be pushed towards future greatness?’ In the first case we need to investigate, the second one is for the visionaries. The first question is important because what was released between Assassin Creed 2 and Assassins Creed Origin was less and less and almost destroyed the franchise, it is nice that Ubisoft remains in denial and after that makes a ‘Looking towards the future comment’, yet the issue is much more important than you think. 

Great gaming does not happen overnight and places like CD Project Red are really rare. A lot of game designers tend to be one trick ponies when it comes to great games and so far they pulled it off more than once, as did Bethesda as did a few others. Yet the ones that do are a minority and in the light of console wars investigating what is possible matters, good gaming is good for all, the era where Microsoft and Sony keeping each other one their toes driving gaming is almost a thing of the past and we need to see better games to resolve that issue. It does not matter how it goes, but at present only Sony and Nintendo remain great, Microsoft a lot less so and as such it will impact great gaming for Sony players down the line. 

As to how to fix this, I have no idea. Yet the thought does propel me forward and I Claudius is still a prime example of what makes a product great. The fact that it can stand against any drama produced almost 50 years later is proof of that, yet in that regard looking at the elements help us. The two elements that are the strong drivers here are the Script (the game story) and the environment. In that regard Bethesda is sitting pretty for now. Evenas there is no finality towards Hammerfell (2021), the signs are good and as I personally see it, it would also benefit my idea of TES: Restoration. It doesn’t change the premise, it merely makes it larger and the new consoles are ready for that, the fact that PC’s need to reserve 150GB for the new flight simulator confirms that and gamers do not care about that space, they will do a lot more to their budget to get the best out of games. Thousands of Elite Dangerous fans are evidence of that, they beat flight simulators fans almost two to one on hardware. Andforthese fans storage is an important element (another thing Microsoft never learned in 8 years). And the setting is not PS5 against Microsoft, it is old, stale and Microsoft lost. It is getting The Apple and Google Solution to par off beyond Nintendo. It is not an easy trip but it can be done and a few good games is all that is needed. Not games already released (Diablo 3 and Skyrim), but actual new IP that the others do not have, that makes any new great game 5 times the challenge for the existing consoles. And it can be done, in all this I refuse to discard Apple, when it comes to TV Shows, they are showing to give Netflix a run for their money, and if they can do it on TV, they can do it on gaming too. 

It is a wild west of digital format and both Google and Apple are on equal footing for now, yet the stage in 2022 is not known and cannot be set until the IP comes out for comparison. So all the junkies that are hardware driven will learn a very interesting lesson, the lesson that it was never about the hardware. The CBM64 people saw it, the PS1 and N64 people lived it and no one seems to catch on. It has always been about great games and as we see copies of great amiga games arrive on Android the decision makers are starting to wake up, yet they lost dozens of opportune IP that is now in the hands of those making a few dollars from microtransactions. It is the loss that we have seen over a year and the larger players are apparently not catching on, so where do the gamers stand?

Well, that remains to be seen. I Claudius was almost never a reality and so far has never been remade. The chance of equalling I Claudius is rare to say the least and surpassing it will be almost impossible. It is the impact of a near perfect TV series and games have had that same impact. On TV we saw other series making it good, even great and games can do that too. Will we see it? I have no idea, but if I can come up with 4 golden idea’s in a year there is no way that there is no one else doing that same thing. My biggest issue is that it is unlikely to be Ubisoft, it is more and more likely that several indie developers are sitting on that great idea and finding them by the right people is what counts towards the next console battle. As I personally (and speculatively) see it, someone (high up) at Microsoft will open their mouth making a needed jump to their precious Azure solution, making the game a no go, as such I am more and more curious on what Apple and Google pull off. They might have what it takes to become a member of the big 4, the question at this point will be, does Microsoft have what it takes to remain one of the big four in 2023. The game is open for a lot of players, yet will they have the software to make it count?


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Value of original gaming IP

When my mind designed the sequels to a new Elder Scrolls game, Far Cry and Watchdogs I did not care about the revenue, I did not care about the revenue factors in gaming franchise, I was merely one creative mind devising new ways and new stories, because the story is everything, it really is. 

Consider the intro and staging of Far Cry 3 against Far Cry 5, the stage of Assassin’s Creed 2 versus AC Unity, or AC Origins versus AC Odyssey and you might get a glimpse of that setting. In all honesty, I never considered revenue in any of it, but I realise that it is a driving force of the houses that publish them. Lets face it, would Mario exist if we did not consider the value of the $650 million it represents? In that same light Call of Duty, GTA, FIFA and Zelda, they all represent a serious level of coins. As such I see the need to continue some franchises, yet  wonder when we test their push for the storyline, how far will some get?

Consider in all this that the Elder Scrolls represent less than a billion, Skyrim alone represents half a billion dollars and has sold over 20,000,000 copies. And let’s face it, we always want to do better than the previous one, which is what drove me to set the story design of Elder Scrolls: Restoration.

Yet even as we see more versions of a game, Apple and Google are driving the need for original IP, it is the larger drive in gaming, not because it is Apple and google, but because the makers see that the original IP can be the beginning of a massive drive towards a system. There is also the fact that when we get a new system we do not want to play the same game over again on that system. 

Yet there are exceptions and they tend to be System driven. The Last of us on PS3 and PS4. Skyrim xbox360 – Xbox one and PS3 – PS4. Pretty much anything involving Mario, and the list goes on, yet Google and Apple do not have that yet and they need to rely on original IP to get the people in. That part was shown all the way back to the Nintendo 64 and the first PlayStation. 

IP that is owed is easier to evolve and more important, when the first game is a hit, it tends to be easier on revenue expectations as well. However, as we look at Apple, we see the need and the logic to have the subscriptions, yet when we see a game like Pilgrims with a mere 14,000 subscribers, the path for Apple is still less than stellar. Now we can push franchises like No Man’s Sky (Hello Games) there, however if Apple is to make a name for itself, it needs original IP, an original RPG, and original racing game and so on. that will drive sales, that will drive longevity in gaming and in a $120 billion industry last year alone, it makes sense to carve a name for yourself.

Yet there is also the stage where the expected and the non-considered walk. When I started to first design an original IP, was it truly original? It was (for the most) and I even added a new game mode that none had considered. Arcade is the way we consider, yet who has considered ‘historically accurate’ as a game mode? 

In this I wanted a more original RPG were the stage is Scandinavia (Norway and Sweden mapped), where you start in the land and get a choice of three places to start, from there you grow your village, grow your interest on the terrain and grow, after which you need to plunder, need to destroy your neighbours and add to your place (and take it from there), an RPG where you can set the rune tone to one god and receive the back handed prayers in success. Yet how can we link ‘Arcade’ and ‘historically accurate’? Well there we get the test of how good a person can play and basically they play two games. Even as a person buys provisions (with real cash) to get an advantage, they buy more, because the purchase in an arcade also comes with a ‘boon coin’ in the ‘historically accurate’. So if a person buys a load of fish in Arcade, they also get a boon coin with a fish in the historically accurate, which sets the chance to find a fish shoal to 100% there. Get two for the price of one. The same for weapons where a kart is bought for one side and the other side gets the smithing coin, giving them a 100% chance of a quality forged weapon. I even set out the stage that an actual player in one village would influence the growth in the virtual version where another player is a neighbour (like choice of stone, location and direction of growth)

I also wanted to make sure that ‘historically accurate’ was there to show that life is not a game and when we slice and dice like in Viking: Battle for Asgard, yet I thought that the game was too small, it was too easily defeated (except the boss at the end) and even as the game had good points, I wanted to see this game in a much larger setting. I wanted compelling to translate to addictive and I wanted a lot more to stand out, I also wanted to make sure that the choice of a god rune had a much larger impact, so over time as people played the game, they would have a new experience if the village rune stone was not set to Odin, but to Loki, Thor, Balder, Frigg, Vidar, or Tyr. What benefit do you want to see? And when chosen in Arcade it will be the set stone for ‘historically accurate’ as well. As such as the history of your village evolves we see that people realise that the impact one would hope for in Arcade would have a different term in the ‘historically accurate’ (HA), we forget in playing that famine was a real think in those days, as was disease and that could go from village to village. We could push it to Greece on the same premise and see where this leads, yet Scandinavia where the weather would have a much larger impact seems to be a more preferred personal feeling in this. So how many games take that into consideration? 

Yes, games like Fallout have a survival mode and there we see “The only means of physically saving the game is to sleep in a bed, on a mattress or in a sleeping bag. The exit save function is still available, but is a temporary save that is deleted automatically upon loading“, it is almost like hardocre mode in Diablo, how many times did you have to die before you figured out that running into batle is as stupid as it could be? As such the HA mode will give the player a much larger consideration to what he’s doing, it is not intend to drive microtransactions, which is why you can optionally only buy stuff in the arcade mode and only the real gamers and winners will get through the game without ever buying anything, that is why I would add an achievement named ‘no purchase required’, how many games heralded the need to not embrace microtransactions? 

It was a stage that my mind evolved over a few days and that is the easy part of the creative element in a game, I wonder how many creative minds are out there in the gaming industry, because I feel personally that people like Sean Murray and David Braben are as rare as it gets in this industry (no insult to other game makers intended), for me it is a stage where I see where places like Apple Arcade (and Google Stadia) are and where they go, so far I am actually not that impressed, not when it comes to companies this big.


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The thought counts

I am still in some level of debate on this, Alex Hearn published an article last August (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2019/aug/20/from-cyberpunk-2077-to-the-outer-worlds-are-role-playing-games-getting-too-predictable) and I happened to re-read the story this morning. The main hitter was ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?‘ I believe it is a valid train of thought to have, yet in this situation is it the game, or the gamer that bears the guilt? As we see the first paragraph we are confronted with: “Not only is it directed by Fallout creators Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, it shares a lot of DNA with Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas – a spin-off with a reputation as the best in the series“, you see there are two trains of thought, the first (not the most embraced one) is that the game was designed by a ‘one pump chump‘, you see a one trick pony is too harsh here. The second is the one I embrace, it is set on two principles.

  1. Relation
  2. Online cheat guides

The relation factor is how you relate to it all, It is easy in the Elder Scrolls, or Fallout, these are plain drives concepts and for the longest time, we go along with it. Even as we are offered options, Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 still try to guide you, yet the reality is that you can go wherever you want ignoring the first stage altogether. The Elder Scrolls 4 (Oblivion) gave you a clear option after you get out of the sewers, The Elder scrolls 5 (Skyrim) did so a lot less, but left the door open to explore. In that beginning we get the option to grow and either you start staging the story, or the game leaves you a little in the dark. In a lot of cases you are a little in the dark, this is seen in Witcher 3, you can go in any direction, yet if you avoid all the missions in the first stage, your character tends to be too feeble to get around, and you die a lot. Until you grow skills you tend to be on your own, now we can see that the first village is an introduction (like the sewers of Oblivion), and yes after that you can explore and decide the way you want and that makes Witcher 3 an amazing game. In that same setting we see Horizon Zero Dawn, it is storydriven, but you can explore your heart out, merely consider that too far away, without proper upgrades your life does not tend to make it for a long time. Still, the origin story that Guerilla Games released is as awesome as any RPG that was EVER released.

It is in that stage we need to see a game like the Outer Worlds, there is a larger stage of introduction and it tends to make the gamer fumble a bit, that is the foundation of RPG, you have to feel your way into any RPG game. Yes, New Vegas was amazing and the stage is still among the very best, but there we get it, when we start exploring, we need to realise that the enemies a little further ahead can make short work of you really fast if the beginning is absent of exploring. Still, New Vegas did one thing better than all others, you have a good and a bad you and some cases can only begotten when you decide on the bad you. It gets to be even better as the third option (Caesar’s Legion) comes into play. It was an RPG founded on replayability, making it one of the very best.

The second stage is another matter, those who rely on online hint/cheat guides. They all go the same direction and it is clear that there are thousands of them (all claiming to have done the path without help), as such the foundation of ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?‘ becomes slightly less reliable. And for the most, the story is partially that simple and partially not so simple. That part is revealed in Horizon Zero Dawn, the story is so overwhelming that it pushes you from stage to stage, it really was one hell of a trip. The cut movies over the entire game add up to almost 6 hours, almost 6 hours of story and information and some parts are not that small, the story truly is everything and it pushes the player in a direction and not on a path, Guerilla games really outdid most designers. In opposition we see Fallout 3, which had moment, not a story that pushes you and it pushes you more towards places. The article then gives you the Cyberpunk 2077 line with “But the fundamental skeleton the games are built on is so constricting that, given an hour to show off everything they could be, both developers independently converged on a near-identical script“, I personally am not convinced that this is so, in the first there was a quote “open world feature to their upcoming RPG. Players are given the freedom to explore the fictional Night City, take on the side quests that they want to, and be a part of the world that CD Projekt Red has developed“, in the second there is the option to be a Netrunner (hacker), techie (a badgetteer) or Solo (Assassin and direct action). The class you select will influence to some degree the way you play, or the way you play will push you into a class. It changes the way you overcome missions and locations and this changes the game (not the main story). As such did the game become too predictable? 

Well that is still out in the open, yet predictability is often depending on lack of choice, CD Projekt Red (Witcher series, Cyberpunk 2077) has never had that, and overall neither did Bethesda (Oblivion, Skyrim, Fallout). Yet it is the way WE play that gives the impression of lack of choice. In the Verge we are given “Obsidian Entertainment’s new role-playing shooter The Outer Worlds, I met a man miserably playing a corporate mascot, his head semi-permanently enclosed in a large, ghoulish moon mask. I spoke to him for several turns, hoping there was something I could do to help. But if there was a way to improve his life, he never suggested it, and I never found it“, as such I never met the man (or played the game) but if we consider that we can help, ignore or optionally kill him, is that a lack of the game, or a lack of the player? You see that is the foundation of RPG, the gamer decides and that is where I oppose Alex Hearn’s statement (not his point of view) ‘are role-playing games getting too predictable?

I believe that the statement is a little out in the open. The makers of New Vegas had an amazing setting (especially after Fallout 3), from one mission you decide whether you go to ‘The House Always Wins 1‘, ‘Render Unto Caesar‘, or ‘Wild Card: Change in Management‘, Obsidian created a phase where we are confronted with a level of brilliance and definitely an opposition of predictability. But Alex is not entirely incorrect, we might agree that there is a good and a bad choice (each with their options) but not much more. the Fable series tend to have them too, as did Mass Effect, but the last one is less RPG set. Yet how many genuinely found the 4th option in Mass Effect 3? I see all the people nod ‘yes’ but in the end, they learned of that options like me, in a YouTube video. Only a few actually found them by their own choices, it tends  to oppose ‘too predictable’. And then we get to a beautiful line in The Verge: “by the end of the game, you’re still one of the most important people in the world“, it shows the largest flaw in RPG, the truth of the matter is that you never mattered, that truth is often pushed out of the RPG, you are merely flock people, you either suck up to the needy as a newcomer, or you decide on what someone larger and more powerful needed and you are the fixer, you are almost never yourself, the person you want to become, the RPG left that out of the equation as it is close to impossible to program too and it does not make an RPG ‘Too Predictable’, it merely makes an RPG ‘less unpredictable’ those two are not the same, not by a long shot.

However, the words of Alex Hearn are still in me and we see that view emphasized in Forbes (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2019/10/23/the-outer-worlds-review-roundup-heres-what-critics-are-saying-about-obsidians-new-space-rpg/#2350c4927d34) where we see: “The Outer Worlds, we were promised the kind of RPG we know and love. And that’s exactly what we’re getting, a familiar experience in a new setting” it is the stage of ‘the kind of RPG we know and love‘, and ‘a familiar experience‘, which basically gives Alex the power of his words, an RPG might be many things, but when it is a new title, those two are the foundation of predictability, the question becomes, if that is what the gamer wants and searches, is it the game maker adjusting its view on commerce that is wrong? Is predictability a dangerous part? I believe it is, but is it any less an RPG? That part was not in debate, yet from my side, when I play a different RPG, I need a different stance. Put Elder Scrolls against Witcher and you get that, in either direction, put Elder Scrolls next to fallout and we see it less. Even as the story and the graphics change, we are not the in the stage of countering predictability, we are in a stage of gaming in a different hall, yet doing the same dance and that is where RPG’s tend to fall short (a little) and that is why I loved Horizon Zero Dawn. Even in my own design, as I drew up Elder Scrolls: Restoration and Watchdogs: Refuge, I continued on the franchise as they already had it, new elements, yes, but the setting remained in part the same, so as such am I enabling repetition and as such predictability? I believe that if we move away from “by the end of the game, you’re still one of the most important people in the world“, we can start that the premise, and predictability (to a certain extent) goes out the window. 

He also gives us “every now and again, a game comes along which shows that innovation can happen without putting people off and revives a genre in the process“, yes that is the part I can agree and align with, there were parts in Skyrim that went beyond Oblivion and id just that. Yet what is also a consideration is that both opened the field by allowing everything to be done and it took the replayability away to some extent, as such in Elder Scrolls: Restoration I went back (allegedly) to Morrowind (which I never played) and left a barricade in place, as such not all classes could be done at the same time, a student of one could not join another path. In addition, the end of the mission often would result in the loss of location and a transfer to other places. One cannot be in University all the time, you are replaced as you are merely a student in one. that path lowers predictability to certain levels, even more so as I set the stage where choices were abundant, but limits choices later on. Without going towards a Red wings match in a Blackhawks Jersey (which tends to get you killed). Yet these settings give a much larger joy towards replayability.

RPGs forgot about the stage of limitation. As we are set in a game, we want to do it all, we ourselves become predictable, not the game (although the game did allow for it).

In Watch Dogs: Refuge I decided to set gender and language as barriers, the stage of pushing for time to drink and eat (in Watch Dogs one and two) I merely did weeks of actions on one fruit drink, so how is it I survived? An RPG should take that into account and make food and sleep an essential. You could try to get through a week on red bull without sleep, but you end to look like the zombies in university (in the 3 weeks before final exam). We took options away as debilitating factors, yet when you consider that Okinawa is a cuisine haven (as is most of Japan) making that a factor as overlooked. I reintroduced the option with an optional achievement or two, considering that one should never go for the stressful places loaded on Cheesecake, you get the idea that a lack of food and sleep can be a debilitating factor, we merely programmed that part away, but is an RPG not about the stage of a whole day, not merely the part you crave for (battle and mayhem)?

So why Japan? Well most gamers of Watch Dogs are non-Japanese, so pushing you into a place where you cannot read or comprehend anything sets you in a much larger stage, when we  get everything in english, we see what we need to, yet what happens when language becomes an actual hurdle? We forget that, did we not? for those who are still in the dark, try watching Passion of the Christ without subtitles. When Aramaic and Latin are your only companions, you either get smart (real fast) or you tend to forfeit your life. Italians (Romans) were really not to be too discriminating to people who did not speak their language (they were all considered slaves).

To set the stage where we counter the RPG in ways we forgot, I still wonder if that is because of the hand holding that the RPG maker is willing to make, or the side where we are just too shabby a player of RPG. I am not certain where it goes, but there are plenty of indicators that both are factors, as such we might consider that RPG games are too predictable, yet I remain in a stage where the makers became too enabling. 

It is merely a point of view and whether it is gaming limitation or predictability, it is a setting that are two faces of the same coin. I am still unwilling to say that Alex Hearn right, but he makes a fair point, even though he seemingly forgets that part of the predictability is the gamer him or her self. 


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It’s been that long

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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An Intellectual Property example, Part 2

Yesterday I gave you part of the introduction in story form, yet an RPG is far too large for story form (outside of the main quest), and when you consider that the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition: Prima Collector’s Guide Hardcover is well over 1100 pages, you see the impact. I wanted to double that (at the very least) not merely through missions, but by adding additional forms of gameplay.


As the game’s introduction ends, we get the call to go home, or to just wander. The nice part of an RPG is that it is up to the player. No matter which call you make, there is now an added incentive to sleep. It was not there in Skyrim to the degree Oblivion had it and I called that back. In addition, too long without sleep gives the fatigue icon, yellow means 10% orange 15% and red 20% loss on power delay to regain magic, longer to hit with strength, diminished strength, speed, become slower and so forth. Fatigue is diminished 25% per hour of sleep, allowing for small naps until you get home, and when sleeping for over 8 hours fatigue goes to -10% (instead of 0%), in addition to that, when fatigue is red fast travel deactivates (just like when you are emcumbered).

Part 1

Part one towards the main quest happens when you sleep. In the dark, the black the void, your dreamless sleep is the introduction by Sithis himself. The Daedric lords are all gone, the oblivion plane is no longer connected which is due to the followers of Stendarr. Stendarr and its hatred of Daedra and all magic were able to almost completely sever the link with Oblivion, but Sithis is not of Oblivion, Sithis is of the void and there the choices start. He still sees in Valenwood where magic has links, but the rest is dark.

Your kills made him aware of you and now he reaches out. It is your choice to let the new world be, or to restore the old connections, but to do that you must recreate all the shrines to all the Daedric princes, balance can only be maintained when they are all there and one had been missing for too long [spoiler]. To regain the first shrine a new night mother needs to be sanctified, a new dark brotherhood chapter must be opened and the power of Stendarr must be diminished.

A this junction you can ignore that quest, you will not be contacted again, it was the last offer by Sithis. You will learn more, but it is up to you.

Lay of the land

Restoration is a lot larger than ever before. To make this work I needed to look on a larger scale. The Oblivion map was close to 6 by 6 miles giving us 36 square miles. To make this work we need to change Cyrodiil. Basically I changed the parameters to be 300%, making the map 18 by 18 miles, giving us 324 sqm. This is important as the map of Skyrim needs to become twice the size. The cities change partially accordingly, the imperial city due to placement becomes 900% larger, Skingrad 400% larger, Cheydenhal, Leyawiin and Anvil 200% larger, Bravil remains a village, a mere 50% larger. The lay of the land is important for the story as the quests will besides Valenwood and Elsweijr include the previous lands. There are larger changes and smaller changes.

In darkness we prevail

The Dark Brotherhood has a lot of quests, the story is that the brotherhood was no more when the night mother was destroyed, Sithis will give signs to find the knowledge to create a new one. Yet before that can be done, you need to find people. The first quest is the ring of souls, a person can only wear two rings and a necklace, which is important as magic is directly linked to imbued magical objects in the game and the danger of having no magic at all, is a disadvantage (or a challenge) on a few levels. People are more susceptible to magic (until more oblivion links return), and you are more protected against magic, yet you can still be killed. The ring of souls resides with Olava the Feeble in Whiterun (your first trip to Skyrim), the ring needs to be retrieved from her grave in Falkreath. It will also give rise to visit the old brotherhood sanctum where a dark brotherhood outfit awaits (her grave gives the information). With the ring of souls we can see the darkness of a person and only the true dark will help us find those people. In this case the people are randomly distributed (8 in total), because of population the best option is the imperial city to find at least one, but that is the new stage, I want to prevent people of merely making a run to completion, not everything is set in stone making the fun to replay the game again interesting. It also opens up more venues to track down.

When a person is contacted and found, the ring will trigger the conversation that person has seen it in his dreams and we see the first connection. The dark brotherhood needs a new home and none of the places will be available, the sanctum in Falkreath collapses when you leave and the others are no longer there. Your new disciple had always been a mason in the past, and can turn a house into the entrance to a sanctum, providing the right house is owned.

[Venture part] The venture part is there to do other things (essential to progress in a few ways).

Once we have enough serfs, enough cash and a place the serfs will start creating the sanctum with the mason.

The sanctum once, properly sanctified in blood (I had to go there) will open the new chapter, recreating a night mother Ocheeva (from Oblivion) will become the new Night Mother to serve Sithis again. The body needs to be found (a Blackwood mission) and that is merely the beginning.


The game is set in many locations and the stage is that if you choose the Daedric restoration path, you will learn that the guilds need to return to keep balance, there is also another part. Cyrodiil can have two guilds, the other places only one, and the mages guild will ALWAYS be in the Imperial city, the other guilds however are open to choice, One in Skyrim, One in Valenwood, one in Elsweijr and another one in Cyrodiil. The fact that you decide where also influences the games economy system. So we have the Mages, the Thieves Guild, the Dark Brotherhood, the Fighters Guild and the Guild of Necromancy (destroyed by Arch Mage Traven before Oblivion) [has spoiler links].

Each area has at least three options and more important, the stage of creating a den also has options (see later in this story). I set that stage so that people could find joy in playing this game again and again. As the games progress you will also learn that you have choices towards where a Daedric shrine is placed, there are however exceptions, the shrine of Azure is ALWAYS in Skyrim (it was a lovely statue), the shrine to Nocturnal is always underground and in the same area as the Thieves guild. Some shrines must be above ground, some underground and some are uip to the player. The stage is that 17 shrines need to be created/completed: Azura, Boethiah, Clavicus Vile, Hermaeus Mora, Hircine, Malacath, Mehrunes Dagon, Mephala, Meridia, Molag Bal, Namira, Nocturnal, Peryite, Sanguine, Sheogorath/Jyggalag, Vaermina and Mannimarco.

Mannimarco was not a Daedric Prince, but he gets ascended to the Oblivion plane in the Necromancer quest, the former actual prince was destroyed by Traven, and the Colossal Black Soul Gem contains both souls, but can only function with one. Another choice whether you want to clean Mannimarco and destroy the Necromancers, or clean Traven and create the Guild of Necromancy. The stage is also tiled in another direction. There are connections that do not work, for example you cannot be in the Mages guild and the Guild of Necromancy, or the Thieves guild. A dark Brotherhood member will not be accepted by the Thieves guild or the Mages guild, the fighters guild will not allow thieves either. It created the stage where you at best can be in three guilds at one time; it also sets a stage where some guilds are created much later, so the opponents you face will be stronger (optionally much stronger). At the end you are removed as a member and like Oleeva you become a revered elder or a similar title in any of the guilds you complete with an added bonus and in some cases a new place to live.

Home is where you can afford a mason

As you progress you can again buy places, but there is also a small hitch [unrevealed spoiler], so be careful of the choices you make, some houses can connect to a guild, some guilds are on their own and some places can be vacated. More importantly depending on the mason you have (there are 8-12) and the upgrade books you find you will be able to add look to a place you upgrade. And this is where the large red quest starts, it is like a red line through the game and even as you are only involved at the very beginning, you will be introduced to the term serfs. Serfs or slaves are a bounty in this game, as you complete quests you are optionally rewarded a servant. A servant is also a financial responsibility, so you can only get it when you have a bank mark, some can be made house servants, most are workers, some can become an assistant mason (roll of the dice) and masons in your service can become Grand Maesters. That requires upgrade books. The large quest is the creation of New Kvatch and you need to lay the foundation for the gate with your bare hands (and pick and shovel). The creation of that place will take up to 600 days and cannot be started until you have 10 work serfs. The mission is offered through the commerce chapter, or if you walk to where Kvatch was, there is a notice that preambles the quest.

Upgrade books are like skill books, but the text is in another colour and has images. There are several, one is always with the Kvatch gate (Iron portcullis and stone wall), there are the gates, Iron and Steel portcullis, Iron gates, reinforced wood gates, Steel gates, Dwemer gates, Elven gates Moonstone/Silver, Silver/steel portcullis, Malachite Silver gate and the Ultra Rare Aylied gate. They are required to complete works and get a much nicer and more imposing city, two books are required to create a Grand Maester and becomes unavailable for the rest of the game unless you find another mason to head your workforce (or train one that has a minimum skill level).

The books are dispersed in places, whilst the easier ones could end up in a book store, the higher ones are in heavy boss chests, or in undefined locations with a 1% chance. The impact is that as you get a different gate, New Kvatch will also look different, more importantly its economic value will increase by a lot, when the gate is completed there can be no change, so the choice is almost final, you can change your mind if the gate has not been completed, however change also means a restart of the gate and all used resources are lost.

As the economic stage of time played and money earned impacts you get a more stretched value of the game and there will be rewards too, in New Kvatch you always get a house and a statue, there are optionally additional rewards [unrevealed spoilers].

The Powers that be (in you)

There was a liking in Skyrim, but also a linear flaw and I tried to address this. Your power needs to be retained in new ways and additional ways (like in Oblivion), Strength is in Melee, in travelling (not fast travel) and mining. Mining is a new skill, as we need a lot of resources and this you get to do in your own time (literally so), to get stone you need to bash proper rock 20 times, when you increase a skill it will be 19 and so on. whenever you level up, you have the option to put a point into Mining, Mining will go from 20-19, yet you also get a Strength point, you can gain in total 20 points this way, which also translates to 200 health as well, whilst normally you merely gain 5 health. In addition, a serf needs twice the time of your skill, so as you upgrade they all upgrade as well.


Block, Heavy Armor, One-handed, Mining, Smithing, Two-handed improve Strength, only 20 points and only if at least four skills have one skill increase, except Mining and Smithing, which always results in a strength point of two skill levels were gained, endurance will auto level by one if Block or Smithing increased by +2 in total (one each suffices) and no more than one point.


The beginning has a lack of Magic and optionally the gamer is almost without magic. Yet here too we see: Alteration, Conjuration, Destruction, Enchanting, Illusion, and Restoration. Magica always increases as Destruction or Conjuration increases, or 4 others do. Magica is linked to Intelligence; however illusion and alteration will increase willpower +2 in will be required to get +1 willpower (automatic)


Stealth gives us Archery, Alchemy, Light Armour, Lock picking, Pickpocket, Sneak, Speech. Here we increase both Stamina and Agility Light armour and Archery leads to Stamina, auto upgrades are Agility and Speed (Archery, lock picking, pickpocket and Sneak +5). Here too is a little snag, Agility and Speed, Archery is for both, lock picking and sneak only add to Agility and pickpocket is only towards Speed. You must have +4 in either one to get one, and +6 in both to get one additional point in both.


Stamina auto upgrades through walking, swimming, Archery and Light armour, it is harder to increase Stamina, yet the influence is stronger at is adds a truckload of options to Endurance

Speech is the only one that influences personality and is linked to successful conversations, in addition if at least three auto upgrades are a fact (from either: Endurance, Willpower, Agility, and Speed) luck goes up by one as well, still with a limit of +30 in total over the game.

This means that he gameplay results in a much more fluid person. You can try to manage the perfect person, but as levelling up becomes harder, the auto levelling also becomes more challenging.

This change was essential as I saw that over time the Skyrim increases became slightly less rewarding. This keeps the chase towards excelling skills much more intact.

I made no changes to the skills as such, merely added Mining with the added option that when your mining skills are above level 10, you can teach (for a price) the skills to your staff members (read: servants) and as such more resources are gained, and the rule from half speed is overcome to some degree. So as your skill is plus 10, serves will be at plus 5 and in addition any additional skill you bought them, additional new serfs down the game will still start at level 0, however whenever you add a skill, they add 2 per level until they are at par with all the other serfs.

New locations

To facilitate to the new set, another location is needed, there are Stone and ore quarries. The mining for gold, silver, moonstone malachite and so on still exists, but they are more rare to find and every location will yield a lot more (up to 2500 per location). Buying a quarry will be very expensive, findin one and not acquiring it (with guards) imply that it will be taken over and the bosses there tend to have a much higher threat and skill level.

Main Quest

There is little on the main quest, I do not want to hand out too much information. Yet the beginning is a given, there is only magic remaining in Valenwood, and the system also differs from the beginning, magic people are distrusted (speech -40, with 10 as minimum value) anywhere but in Valenwood and non-magical characters get -40 speech in Valenwood, again with 10 as a minimum value. The correction is that you need to resolve the mistrust and solve the actual main puzzle and as you progress in the game, each mission will remove one distrust point per complete quest. The mistrust also mean that guards and others watch you more closely (sneak skills gets reduced) and any wrongful action is punished more strongly, discounts fall away and so on. As certain situations are resolved, you will be regarded better and travel becomes easier, also there is a chance to increase in one way and decrease in another. Serving Stendarr will get you less trusted in Valenwood and additionally trusted everywhere else. There is a need to find balance which also influences gameplay, going all out being good or bad has benefits, but also gets punished in other places.

All this was devised in mere hours, it took 500% more time to type it all out and create tables and so on. I wanted to give a much larger option to halls (artisan halls) so that not going into the Daedric restoration would still have a much larger impact on gaming and give you a real truckload of challenges. That choice would not affect the New Kvatch or a range of other choices. The fact that the larger story is designed to be independent of other choices grants a player with much more exploration. Even though all the locations (cities) are there, the game was designed not to have EVERY location in place. For example there would only be 10 of each Ayleid Ruin (Cyrodiil and Valenwood only), Cave, Fort, Mine and so on and via the Season pass there would be a truckload more in Skyrim and Oblivion, it also would enable to get more created matter to be acquired (or offered). I also considered that Battlehorn Castle comes back with the added option that every guild completion also adds a bonus to that place as well as the option to overhaul the castle in other ways. So as you find enough better rated bows, the defending archers would be more powerful, swords and shields for guards and so on. As you gain more in one way, you also lose in other ways; less money means more hunting for goods to afford the workers. A system that includes more checks and balances makes the entire RPG game more rewarding as well as more challenging.

The Intellectual Property example

The example is not merely about how I devised IP; the power of real IP is a stage where you are able to give the reigns of your mind to your imagination. All the BS you read on discipline and excel based bullet points sound nice when you work for someone else, but your IP comes from the stage where they never had a clue to let creativity reign. When I gave my bosses in the late 90’s the idea of a website server where people can get their space and talk to one another with us in the middle was laughed away as it had no business function and it was not part of the mission statement. Interesting how Facebook did exactly THAT 4 years later (and more). Your imagination can get you the rewards you wished for as long as you are willing to let that part of you take control of you when you can guide it (usually out of office hours). It is that part that too many people lost, or never gained and that stops innovation a lot more than you realise. It is not a coincidence that I came up with close to a dozen markers on new IP, I merely learned not to trust those around me to give me a fair deal, most often by those with a ‘what if’ setting. Those people are merely selling what they have or acquiring at zero cost (a lesson I learned too late twice over).


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