Tag Archives: Skyrim

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.

Premise

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.

Locations

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.

Physical

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.

Magical

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

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.

Generic

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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Premise towards boredom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Electronic Entertainment Expo 2019

After last year there were issues, several on all fronts, and as Sony announced not to attend, we see the larger question, is there a need for E3? From my personal point of view, Microsoft will not be trustworthy (after their choices between the Xbox 360 and now), making it a Nintendo & Indie show, now, I am all for that and it could be awesome, but that is no longer an actual E3. Also, we will see the front carried by a few titles, yet they did so too last year and the blip verts show many images of what we saw last year too.

So as I use GamesRadar (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNCFmrkqQuY) as a handhold, let’s take a look at what we could optionally consider not watching in person there.

  1. Cyberpunk 2077. Yes, we saw a lot, we saw a lot before and for the most, we have blind trust in CD Project Red, they gave us the goods from the very start ‘You’ll see it when it is ready’ and with the Witcher III as evidence, we have all the confidence that it will be a smash winner when it is finished, the problem is that everyone is speculating or giving ‘I know a guy and it comes at …….‘, but the truth is CD Project RED has not giving a final date, if there is one, it will most likely be given at the E3 2019.
  2. Gears of War 5, it seems to be more of the same, it was never my cup of tea and as such, I hope people will love it, I truly do, but I see it as too much of the same, just like the next HALO which has number 3 and even as 4 player part might be nice, yet after Anthem, and every version connected to it (exception of Fortnite and Overwatch) I have seen enough to last me a lifetime, so the orchestra part was definitely overkill
  3. Another Star Wars game? Likely an absolute must for every Star Wars fan, I am not judging here, merely awaiting to see real game play.
  4. Session, a skateboarding game. It comes from Microsoft, so we will have to await the actual game footage and YouTube video to see what the actuality of that game is, personally I am kind of over all the Microsoft marketing, and we will likely see more on Crackdown 3, the game that was announced in 2014, coming in 2016, and has had delay after delay and is still not out. A game that is years too late, supposed to be AAA and gets a mere 57% from Metacritic, I think it was PC Gamer that gave us “It’s an OK game that could’ve been exciting a decade ago“, so as we were given presentation after presentation on the of Cloudgine for cloud computing support, we see the entire part blown out of the water. This now interacts with my article ‘At the end of a journey‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2019/04/14/at-the-end-of-a-journey/) where we see the issue of Tim Stuart, Microsoft CFO giving us: “Xbox CFO on Google Stadia: “Cloud Won’t Match Local Experience”“, yes we said that for decades, making Crackdown 3 a joke at the very least and the years of delay a questionable side in what Microsoft regards as game design.

There are a few more games, some definitely interesting of checking out and a few to race for to the release date shop. Bethesda will be present with another Doom, for the lovers of that type of game a decent must. Ubisoft will try to wet the appetite with more ‘Beyond good and evil 2‘ yet there is no indication that there will be anything playable and GamesRadar as well as a few others have been whispering NextGen, so this might be a PS5 and whatever Microsoft puts on the market with an expected optional ‘always online‘ push by badly facilitating, and lets not forget the massive amount of space reserved for advertisement on your Xbox screen.

Nintendo will be killing the show, the next Pokémon is already making waves at present, so the impact will only increase, and that is merely the beginning, there will be an animal crossing, an exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance for Nintendo Switch, which must anger all the other consoles, as the previous two had quite the impact on gaming. And no matter how others slice it, the Nintendo Store with Switch version of CBM-64 golden games is only increasing the desire to own a Nintendo Switch, the idea to replay the Epyx great ‘Impossible Mission’ is just too fantastic to ignore.

We will get another call to Dying Light 2, yet at present no actual reliable release date as well as third installments of Luigi’s mansion and Borderland, both a reason to watch, both have a following and both have creatively emphasized on fun. There are more and more titles that are looking good (also on the Xbox), the makers of Fallout New Vegas and now part of Microsoft will be bringing the Outer Worlds. For those who remember Fallout New Vegas, consider an RPG, a lot larger, with more options, more challenges and more choices, there is zero chance that this game is not on the wish list of anyone who loves RPG’s, which is fair enough, Microsoft can’t get everything wrong. For Ubisoft it will be an important moment, Watchdogs 3 is on the list and according to rumours it will now be based in London. It is important because the first game became a massive letdown, yet Watchdogs repaired it to a decent degree in number two, not in the least because of the cast of Ruffin Prentiss who did an amazing job. So for Ubisoft the stakes are nothing short of monumental, they cannot afford to mess this one up. As I personally see it the Quality department better have their marbles in a row on this one. Ubisoft will have more if some of the leaks are to be believed. So their show, as well as the Bethesda one are the shows to be in the top ones both seasoned with the anticipation from viewers and gaming fanatics alike.

Gaming is more and more true mainstream, but it is also splintering gamers to a larger degree, in part we can blame people like Fortnite. It is not really their fault, they made genuine innovations, and more and more people nowadays expect that the system is no longer an issue when you are playing with your friends, which is actually no longer a given. With newbies Apple and Google, the interaction of games across platforms becomes a larger issue and no longer a given. Yet the audience is pushing and setting for a stage that remains debatable. Is it fair to expect PC’s and next generation consoles to group play?

The option that Microsoft consoles will interact with PC’s is to be expected, but is that stage equal for PS5 other solutions (Mac systems)? I am not claiming a yes or no, merely asking the question. If anything happens in the 5G stage, it will be that those interactions will find a larger footing, whether it will happen gets a TBA (to be announced) flag for now.

As I said Ubisoft has Watchdogs 3 nearly on ready is a large issue, on the plus side, if they pull it off, the value of the Watchdogs Franchise will skyrocket, mainly because the second in San Francisco was a large step forward from the first. The idea of London is appealing to many in other ways, the American population that needs to adjust to driving on the left lane is going to set the stage of many hilarious moments and the open world of London could be breathtaking. They gave us a great experience in San Francisco, so I expect nothing less than spectacular. It also implies that my idea for Watchdogs 3 could be an optional Watchdogs 4, so let’s just hope that game 3 knocks it out of the park. The only larger question will be Bethesda, they have confirmed that there will be no Elder Scrolls 6 or Starfield, which is nice to know, but Bethesda has a lot more IP so there is likely to be plenty to watch, and to be honest after all the slicing and dicing of Fallout 76, they need a win, a big win would be better.

In all this we see more of the same, the IP has stagnated to some degree, Minecraft (2009), Skyrim (2011), Grand Theft Auto V (2013), Elite Dangerous (2014), Witcher III (2015), No Mans Sky (2016), Fortnite (2017), all great moments of IP. I now distinguish between IP and a great game; they often go hand in hand, but not always. I believe that sandbox games, RPG games and tactical games will overlap more and more and will for the growing population of new gamers to be more and more important as well. We saw what could have been possible to some degree in Ghost Recon Wildlands, but not to the degree that could have been achieved. I believe that this is the IP that Google Stadia can build on.

Say What?

To see this, we need to look at the two stages of gaming. For the most, the games have a combined approach (the image is an analogy), so there are parts in the game that are used and in the core of the game, accessed when it is applicable. Yet another way is to take the Covert Action (an old Microprose game) approach, but now a next generation version. In this version in any sandbox, as we add a new element, the world would actually become bigger, or there would be more to do in that same world.

It was the foundation when I started the design of a game called: ‘Equilibrium, nature versus the machine‘. The biggest elements were finding a large enough play field (in my case Amsterdam), and set the stage where replayability would be more fun, so the stage required a very different approach, so that people could not chase from one point to the other to get a quickest time finale. In addition, I needed to set a stage where it would not merely be some kind of a ‘seek’ game (which is too much of a given when you finish the game more than once). In addition, there is the eye candy bit, so making sure it looks appealing and not repetitive was equally a challenge. For the most Amsterdam filled that bill. Yet, as I was contemplating the foundations for Elder Scrolls 7 and Watchdogs 4 I knew that they all had their hang-ups (not in a bad way), in every case it was what the player (in my case me) relied on, I wanted to change that concept, and in all honesty after hundreds of hours of Diablo 3 it felt an essential first to solve.

No man’s sky gave me additional idea’s. We look at it as some kind of failure, but the game is an achievement in many ways. If we accept that the worlds were set to a formula, what happens if we change this world into a formula and let the NoManSky IP recreate that world again and again? Then I considered what could one day be another Watchdog game, in this I wanted to push the envelope in another way. Hence I considered the stage where Kyoto was completely set to the game map, and I mean EVERY street. The game would now be large enough to keep a person busy for hundreds of hours and in the gender setting the game would have 4 versions two for each gender and each gender could get through the game as a criminal or a non-criminal, so the city had a light and a dark side. The interesting part about Japan is the lack of guns (and super strict gun laws) forcing stealth and forcing unarmed combat. As the monkey fist was a brilliant choice in the second Watchdogs, there was the option to keep it in, but also to make other weapons, weapons not to bleed, but to knock out. The nice part is that Japan has about 4 centuries of weapons in their history, so plenty of options. Technology (read: applied technology) is also more advanced (in many cases), so letting the game revolve not merely on the smartphone, but also Google glasses and the fact that in the hard setting there will be no English, gives light to a much bigger challenge. Having to rely on you wearing Google glasses (in the game that is) to read signs and to read instructions in the game to get your local language was appealing for a few reasons. It makes the game a much larger part of you. Adding weather and time constraints adds to the challenge and excitement. We forgot that the ‘you’ in your character was neglected more and more is also a consideration, having to eat and sleep on a regular basis could translate into a larger experience.

Finally the part where the elements come to shine; as we look at the coloured balls, we can see that mixing blue and red would create purple and between blue and dark yellow we would get a moss green. Now consider replacing the colour for a level, in normal mode hacking is one version, yet when we tweak that it is not pressing a button, we could replace the button with code segments that need to be found (and chosen), drastically increasing the challenge of the game, so what is a joy and still a challenge as well as an achievement on normal could be a mind boggling experience on hard and higher. So the smartphone could be upgraded, other versions of the (in game) app, also gives more options and buying an up scaled phone (more expensive) would give the player more destinations where he/she could strike it rich. Yet giving merely more and more is not enticing either, the added plus needs to be balanced with the drag in the negative.

It is what I envisioned in a new Elder Scrolls, adding the old limits. For example a person could not be fighter guild and mercenary (Blackwood company), a Mages Guild member could not be a member of the Thieves Guild and so on, so that at the most 3 guilds could be joined and until one guild had been completed some guilds could not be started. In this setting the game becomes more fulfilling, even in replay, as you start the second game with the Mages guild or the guild of Necromancy would impact your character to a much larger degree. To keep it appealing the setting of what used to be called the red wire challenge, a challenge that is not part of any main quest and happens over the entire stage of the game, so I came up with another challenge, to get there you needed masons, as well as special books (to be found) you could influence the look of the outcome with an Elvish, a Dwemer, the Imperial and the Ayleid version, all having distinct different looks and as the books are to be found in a different locations in every game, the hunt could be on for quite a while. With the introduction of new elements, reverting to an applied extra from Oblivion, So in the game there would be the option for Strength, Intelligence, Willpower, Agility, Speed, Endurance, Personality and Luck to be increased in other ways. Mining would result in additional strength, trading gives additional Personality, and Luck would grow with trade deals, finding mythic loot and so on, so even as the Skyrim approach of Illusion, Conjuration, Restoration, Alteration, Enchanting, Smithing and so on remains, with certain levels of Smithing and/or Mining surpassed the player would also gain additional strength, which gives added value to the carry and stamina numbers, whilst sickness and wounds have a much stronger negative impact. So a stealth master remains with attributes in the same area, any stealth master would have much higher agility giving the player an additional bonus. In addition, the stage of the game as I considered it had additional choices making for a much higher desire to replay the game in other ways and options. And as I went through it, it was the idea of changing the map in another way, As Oblivion was stated to be 40 KM2, Skyrim was stated to be 37 KM2 (this is clearly a: I thought it was bigger moment) ESVII (Restoration) would be no less than 780 KM2, adding to the game in a massive way, yet that also gave the stage where the current approach to a game map would no longer work (assumption on my side), so another approach would be essential. Optionally a two disc solution where the first disc is the install and map disc, the second one would be the actual game disc, yet in that stage the game would require a reserved space of no less than 150 GB (very loose estimate), as such the game would require other checks and balances as well. Whether it ever happens or not does not matter, the entire part is important in another way. When we consider the images I gave where the play world grows with the added segments, that approach would work very well for Google Stadia, so it opens up a new area we have almost never seen before, true open source gaming, a collective of gamers that could add to the game (with permission from the maker) not unlike some kind of a creation club, but in the foundation (the small balls), as a new enhancement is accepted by the game owner, we see that the entire gaming map and experience would grow as well, so over time, we get a largely enhanced game. Consider the merging of Elite Dangerous and No Man’s Sky, so not only do you play Elite Dangerous and travel from planet to planet, each planet could end up having an algorithm that allows to planetary exploration on every planet for the size of the planet, it would make it a game that takes a lifetime to play even in part. Yet what happens when someone created the module to add your own space station in an unexplored location? Consider the option for the gamer to have their own small station, grow it so that the station itself becomes an economic mark on the game as a larger whole. The nice part is that Google Stadia is in a much better position to bring that reality in gaming in the short term, so as the elements of IP are created and offered, we see the optional short term reality that Google Stadia could take sandbox gaming to an entirely new level and that would create the interest of millions of casual and recreational gamers overnight. That is not all, the stated lack of latency and the larger balance (implied) between latency and quality (much higher quality with less latency) only rises the level of opportunity for the Google players in the immediate future. I am not certain how active Google will be at the next E3, yet I believe that every eye will be on what Google can deliver, at that point the game changes for players on a global scale, so when I stated “we do hope that Sony is not stupid enough to follow the short-sighted path that Microsoft is on, they are now merely console number three and optionally before 2021 number 4 out of 5“, in ‘Lifting the Veil‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2019/04/17/lifting-the-veil/) I did know what I was talking about and I knew what could optionally happen. Microsoft forgot what the power of true dreamers was (and optionally clueless on what they can still do), that is why Google could be the number 3 choice for a global gaming community soon thereafter, how far they rise depends on how innovative they continue to be, they are up against two titans that actively shaped the world of gaming for well over 5 console generations. So when these new technologies come, we will see a much more driven need for these players to be the best innovator in gaming, at that point it does not matter who leads, the gamer wins and that is just fine by me.

 

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A Congressional Country Club Neighbour

There is a problem when you are the neighbour of the Congressional Country Club. It is not on the CCC mind you, they did nothing wrong. No, it is all about their neighbour Bethesda. Yes, you guessed it; the slamming of software developer Bethesda is just escalating and escalating. The latest one (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJ-kIlMPoYY) gives a rise too blunders on many levels, all made by Bethesda. The tweets are off the wall; Bethesda is in actual problems at this point.

I believe that in part the mockery is deserved, apart from the fact that Fallout 76 was an error, or published way too early, the clarity of failure on how the entire mess was dealt with, the lack of communication, shallow party lines and bad response to an even worse situation is what is strangling Bethesda, and to some degree, deserved or not. It is unfair.

Until Fallout 76 the bulk worshipped Bethesda, consider that a game like Skyrim, released on 11.11.11 is still played today, that requires true vision. Many (like me) became fans of Bethesda as ES: Oblivion was released. There is another view (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kRRYgf54oM) that takes itr into another direction. I believe that he is wrong, but I get the point of view. You see, what we call puzzles are basically locking systems in the game. That locking system was staged in those days and these places were filled with soldiers in those days, so the ‘puzzles’ were actually merely locks for those without keys. It is not a hard core puzzle and should not be seen as such. Yet the same person also makes a point with the Fallout 4 references in RPG, the gutting of the Special perks part. He has a point, there was regression, making it too much like an action game with RPG elements. Was it a mistake? It never bothered me whilst playing Fallout 4 over and over again, but that is just me, the story itself did not suffer to the larger degree, if that was the case, my reaction might have been different.

He makes a good point, New Vegas is actually superior in a few ways and that is a shame, even as we loved the ability to make our place more specific, we lost in other ways and that was a shame. When I decided to design ESVI: Restoration, I added from Oblivion, added to Skyrim and made two additional sidesteps, that is progress; that is game evolution.

So there was additional challenge, new options and additional lines to complete. More important, I realised that not everything is in your hands, so I added a side quest where you can influence, but not control it all, that is a part of life. That question will move like a red line through the entire game and in some cases that project will not be completed by the end of the game, time had become a factor as well, an element often ignored in RPG. In my view, you can influence time in the project, yet the end is almost predetermined as you find the elements.

So how is that better?

The fact that there are several choices and you can only commit to one, is the part that matters, it makes for replayability. Also, the end result will influence the economy in play and more important, ass certain choices were obtained/found the place will also open up another set of NPC’s in the game giving another feel and optionally other quests and optionally another achievement. That is merely one place.

I set the stage for 23 side quests that are not the same, require a choice to be made (to some extent) and in addition, would optionally change the favour you get in return, that is something that had not been done before. Although based on previous games, the entire main storyline is set in the past, in the past you played before (to some degree) making the entire line of ES games a historical part of what had happened, optionally what you had played before, that is a side we have not seen before (as far as I know).

What else could there be?

Well, that was my initial thought when I started Restoration and what if we get to choose? What if it is not as shallow as the legion versus the storm cloaks? What if the choice is a fundamental one? What if we select progress of now versus the return to the old age? That is an RPG, it is your choice, it is something given to us in the very beginning of Oblivion.
This is exactly why I considered what I did and I believe that it has the merit of giving the gamers optionally over a hundred hours of gameplay, more than that, they can replay and get a partially different game out of it all, something a lot more than merely manic versus mania; more than Elf versus Imperial. What if we take this to a new level and realise that the light cannot exist without the dark. When we accept that there are no clean solutions and that we have to live with choices and see the impact around us, that is when vanilla RPG transforms into something we seemingly have not seen before (implied as I never played all the games that there are).

And what happens when this is translated to an entire new level of Fallout later on? My ideas are new and partially unique, but the evolution I have in mind is not something that is unheard of. the question becomes is Bethesda (or any other serious RPG developer) willing to take the gamer into a different direction, adding to the need of a lot more graphics and a lot more changes, but that will in the end entice people to replay a game like that again and again. Skyrim opened many eyes, I am merely offering the part where a place like that becomes your universe and you can actually tinker it through gameplay into something more, it has been seen before, but it is really really rare as it requires the software maker to be truly committed to a product for the long term and those in charge now are all about the full time hit, as fast as possible and make it the next profit treasure. Ubisoft showed us that in Assassins Creed, the Division (version 2 more so), Far Cry and Watchdogs. I need to start with the clarity that this is never about the graphics; the graphics from Ubisoft are close to sublime on all these games they really worked it out. The long term part is missed (especially in the Division) as this is about non-stop action. Now, that part seems natural, but it is not. When you have been in a warzone you will get it. You see, it is about stamina. Not fictive but actual stamina. We might think that this does not apply, but it does. It is so much clearer in Division 2, as we see the game to be a much better game, we see the failure on how a person does what they do with 30 Kg of backpack and weapons and do the stuff they do. Stamina should have intervened to some degree; in addition it was ignored as a reward. When you play more, your character will have a better level of stamina, have you ever run for your life holding onto a 7.62mm FN MAG? I have and trust me it is intense, when stamina leaves you for the moment. Things become a little blurry, motor skills diminish a little and you really need 5 seconds to get a hold of yourself. Now, this is a game and I get that, but it is the ignored element, which is a shame. We see Stamina in Skyrim and there it makes sense, yet Skyrim missed a little as well, not intentionally and perhaps not even noticeable and it does not matter to the degree it might, but the internal blocks have not been addressed in any RPG game as far as I can tell, which is a shame. It does not make the Division (1 and 2) a bad game, not at all. I am not a great fan of online gaming and plenty are, yet there is a side of me that looks at the game and whilst there is nothing to say about the first division (we all have to start somewhere) we see that the second one needs to be a step forward and that is clearly the case. It is a large leap forward, anyone telling you different is merely insincere on it all (not lying, merely not seeing it all correctly) Now, there I might be wrong, even as i am not much of an online player, others are and they hold a much larger candle towards the quality of such a game. They will look at other elements. I merely noticed that Stamina is a missed opportunity in the Division both one and two), but in the end it is merely one element of plenty of elements that might be improved on. Stamina is the most visible one as it equally impacts Assassins Creed, Far Cry and Watchdogs. Consider, when was the last time when you had to climb up a tower with gear, let alone the pyramids?

We see to leap forwards in many areas except debilitation (like Stamina). So what happens when you do need to get from place to place and also rest at spots to regain stamina? We played Fallout 4 and Skyrim, yet how many took time to sleep and eat? What if that becomes the foundation in the game for the character? What if we see that the Khajiit needs sugar and meat at least once a day? What if the High Elf needs little food, but will require fresh clean water every day? What more can we get out of the game when we focus beyond the story and make sure that our time in the elements are properly addressed? I believe that plenty of games will end up with an added level of game play and satisfaction when the elements become actual elements to take heed of. Fallout New Vegas had so much of the added elements in its game that the consideration that Fallout 4 was a step back is not that big a leap and that is such a shame.

It is a shame because future games will be measured in different ways, the growing demand for survival games is showing us that path and RPG’s need to catch up fast, or better stated Bethesda needs to up their game in several ways. They do not have the luxury they had in January 2012 (after the first Skyrim wave). They now need not merely a good game, they need a landslide rating to get the people aboard and enthusiastic again, they dropped the ball that often in the last year alone. If they do not, we will see the RPG community moving to other shores and perhaps that is what Obsidian Entertainment will deliver with the Outer Limits. Time will tell, and the gamer has time to go from game to game, Bethesda no longer has that benefit, they squandered too much of it internally, and externally towards their fans, the gamers and their marketing will need to learn that merchandising is not a solution, it is not a stop gap. Every piece of merchandising is another piece of evidence to hold Bethesda as a company up to scrutiny, did they not realise that?

 

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Battle of the giants

The Guardian has released a list of the best games of the year. As a Sony lover, I expected to see god of War and it is there, we also see Microsoft’s Forza Horizon 4, which ought to be there too. I was never a racing fan and still that game blew me away, so there!

We also see games that never were my fancy; Monster Hunter World is not a game I tried as I was disappointed with the grinding that the 3DS version gave. I admit that the graphics on the new consoles looked amazing, yet i felt no need to try. Ni No Kuni 2 is not a surprise and the absence of Bethesda is no surprise. I am quite frankly amazed on how many times Bethesda dropped the ball in this quarter alone. I have no idea what got them hit with the stupid stick this many times. Red Dead Redemption 2 is there too and my only surprise is the remastered Shadow of the Colossus. I actually did not expect it to show up, as I saw Dark Souls Remastered. If we look at those two, they deserve to be there, and even as it hits the mark, they do have the benefit of having a long time to be the original, when we look today, it is much harder to find an original game, as such these two might be regarded as having an unfair advantage.

I also missed titles that should have been there. first there is Spiderman, it is not merely the best Spiderman ever made, it is graphically perfect, it has the clear feel of a Peter Parker adventure and it is true to a Marvel world, as such I expected it to be there, right next to God of war, two games that made Sony to be the Huge success it became in 2018. The Xbox One misses out due to exclusivity, and I am in conflict with myself over Assassin’s Creed Odyssey not being picked, there are reasons it should be there and optional reasons for it not making the cut, yet I feel the balance scale is still on the side of it being there. I believe that in this case the DLC is added reason for it making the grade this time around as well (the cultural DLC of life in Egypt last year was a stroke of genius, you walk through it seeing just how much as a gamer you missed out on, making the replay 150% more satisfying). As a PlayStation lover (an important distinction), I need to side with Keza MacDonald on this one. Her statement: “This game is a beautiful experience. As driving games go, it’s the best I’ve ever played“, in the end, God of War blew me away as well, it was such a rush to see a game propel to the size it did, yet in the end, there is every chance that Forza Horizon 4 might end up being the best game of the year, it will be a title well deserved. In all my opposition to what Microsoft calls ‘good business‘ and their view of gamers, this one they got right, well done Microsoft!

If gaming is perception and presentation, just to call the attention, we need to stop and take another look at Bethesda. Even as the media titles have been ‘protective’ like ‘Bethesda Accidentally Leaked Personal Data of ‘Fallout 76’ Customers Looking for Help‘, as well as ‘Bethesda’s attempt to fix a Fallout 76 blunder leaks angry shoppers’ PID‘, we need to be mindful, accidental or not. Personal data is out there, possible due to an overreaction by Bethesda. Many consider Fallout 76 to be a failure; I am slightly less pessimistic calling it ‘work in progress’. That is the nature of the beast, when you tackle the online gaming, things go pear shaped, not merely because of the dangers of online resources, the mere consideration that 4 eager gamers can ask more of a system than 23,665 programmers can correct for, it is a mere truth of the online stage. And it was my personal feeling that after Tamriel in an online stage, Bethesda would have learned enough to get it much better from day one, they did not!

So it is unlikely that Bethesda is going home with any prices and awards this year (however, there is still Legends, and optionally blades).

Why look at this?

Games are not merely games, when a person buys a game; he or she pays for both an experience, as well as a stage of engagement. It is hard (read: impossible) to merely see AC Odyssey, without going back all the way to Masyaf and the very first Assassins Creed (if you played it as early as then), this is why AC2 and AC brotherhood are still seen as the path of perfection that AC Unity devastated. I got this Ubisoft punishment device (see image), just so I could explain it to the skull of Yves Guillemot as graphically as possible (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk).

We have had plenty of reasons to get mad at Ubisoft for a whole range of reasons and now we see a growing group of people angered with Bethesda. I say one optional flop does not make a raging crowd, yet the views, visions and YouTube’s out there say different. As for perception, this game (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWwyhymcDxI) was one of the first 5 games I ever bought (3rd or 4th), I still think fondly of this game, even after 34 years. I got the Broderbund title as it got the IBM joystick award (in those days there was no proper game reviewing). It was an instant success. When you get emerged in a game, your world changes, and you tend to focus on fun and challenge. This is not unique for me; this is for anyone who loves games. Now we can hardly perceive this, yet I still remember the challenge that level 5 was initially. For many, their first console, the first game they truly got involved in, that title they will carry in their hearts for the longest of times, they will judge other games by that game. For many it will be on all systems, others will judge it per system (which is fairer anyway). So the new gamers will hold a light to any new game, comparing it to FHIV, AC Odyssey, Super Mario Odyssey, and Red Dead Redemption 2. That is the nature of the beast and when we find the developer lacking, they will get slapped around by these gamers (poor poor Yves Guillemot). Yet when a developer gets it right, when they deliver beyond the over marketed title (like AC Origin) they also get the benefit of powerful acknowledgement (as they are entitled to that too). For me (in the Mario universe) it started with Super Mario 64, and until we got Super Mario Sunshine, it had the crown, even later as we saw Wii and WiiU, Super Mario Sunshine still ruled and now we see the optional crown going to Super Mario Odyssey (I only played the demo so far).

So when we see this, when we realise that best game of the year is also smitten with what they made before, we see a difference, another measurement. So in that light, I do hope that the rumours of Samus Aran and her trilogy for Nintendo Switch will be true. So far in 14 years no one ever surpassed the fun and challenge value that Metroid Prime delivered and I loved Metroid Prime 2: Echoes to that same degree. So to get that on Switch will up the ante for any game developer. The fun, the challenge and getting to the conclusion of the challenge is everything to the gamer, Nintendo has forever understood that part of gaming to a much better degree than any other developer (Bethesda had a good grasp of comprehending people on the past).

So when we see that the reality is that we will optionally be able to replay those titles via the Nintendo Switch Virtual Console, we see that Nintendo has a long term future as well, as these titles can capture the older hearts, as well as new players giving them a lot more bang for the buck. Nintendo rules these waves, we see this with the latest addition Super Smash Bros (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWo9wfsnj7M). It is Super Smash Bros that gives the main dish as a desert. When we realise that the impression of fun is not merely looking good, it is about getting it right, it is in this view that looking perfect will always lose against getting it right.

It is that distinction is also important when you look towards the best game of 2018, even as a PlayStation fan (a bias that is forever important), we see that Spiderman PS4 got it right, Forza Horizon 4 merely got it right better. So Microsoft on a game type that I am not really a fan of; justly wins with a title by getting it right the best. Even as God of War was perfect, exceeded everything they made before, we might compare it to why Super Smash Bros got 94%, yet in the end, the game that blew us away more will take the cake and candles in all of this. FHIV might never be in my collection as the One versus One X is just to distinct here (for now), yet the fact that whenever I see FHIV, I get the desire to race, as a non-racer, that impression is extremely distinct; it is why my vote went that way. To capture the heart of a player that has another game style is an achievement that we all seem to forget. Just like Super Smash Bros has the ability to get all kinds of people to pick up the game and play against as many people as possible, we see the impact of excellence in gaming through fun and the joy of getting there. Nintendo mastered that ability a long time ago and whenever we see any other game getting there, we rejoice.

Far Cry Primal got close and then dropped the ball by being ‘predetermined’. Far Cry 5 never got there by offering everything and becoming nothing at all, the God of War got there through the people who knew the originals, giving us a new track, another path in almost perfect graphics and with a rating of 94% they did excel, set that against the 92% of Forza Horizon 4 and in my state of mind, there would be no contest, game over for Microsoft Studios, yet that was not the case, challenge and fun, they merely got it slightly better. Even as we see that they got Best Racing Game and Xbox Game of the Year (which was not really that much of a challenge this time around), they are still on track to get Ultimate Game of the Year, Best Sports/Racing Game and Best Audio Design, it is my personal opinion that they would optionally lose the third one and anyone who has heard the soundtrack of God of War is likely to agree with me. As I see it, Forza Horizon 4 gets to be the Ultimate Game of the Year; at least that is how I personally would vote.

The annual award is a battle of giants, some excelled for a long time, some excelled in every way and some merely competed to some extent. What is important in not merely who wins, and who gets nominated, we see that the winners will impact what we see in upcoming 2020 games and that is important to realise.

As we will anticipate on the coming of the Trilogy on Switch, some might wonder why. It is not merely the FPS part, it is open (to some extent), it is a challenge and it is an adventure, even in 2002 when it was released, even with the more ‘advanced’ graphics that the Xbox and the PlayStation 2 had, they could not touch Metroid Prime and its 97% rating. That small disc, holding a mere part of a DVD blew away all competition and with Metroid Prime 2: Echoes at 92% it did so again, and those who loved gaming want to get that feeling again. That is the impact that fun coated in challenge, or is that challenge coated in fun? Whichever way it is presented it creates gamers and it creates desire within a gamer. The ultimate game of the year can impact that future of where we will look next, what we will try next, even if it is not our cup of tea. When it hits the mark we will all order a pot of it, not merely a cup. That is one part that the game makers understand, and they are eager to get into the sweet spot of gamers there.

Should you think that gamers are selfish, think again! Digital trends reported less than 2 weeks ago: “Grandma Shirley — had left expressing her doubts at living to see The Elder Scrolls VI, a petition was created on Change.org to have her immortalized in the game“, gamers care to this extent, especially when they share a connection to a game, so I think that Bethesda needs to be truly stupid to not consider this, and to be honest Bethesda has been overly considerate in the past, not for personal gain or marketing, their actions regarding Erik West (Eric the Slayer), and there are more examples. Bethesda has forever been trying and aiming to get it right and to a larger extent, they have, so I was puzzled on how they got Fallout 76 so wrong. I merely cover it with ‘a work in progress‘, which in light of the approach is probably as correct as it gets (for now).

Gaming is for me not some state, or an escape. It is a world you become a part of, not replacing reality, but having it on the side. Making it part of the 24 hours a day you have, not replacing the 24 hours you should live in. Some choose sports, some choose a passion (or passion itself) and some hike, trail and be out in the open. Gamers do the gaming thing and when developers get that mindset right, the games will propel in excellence, it is a lesson Nintendo learned early on and they are still able to surprise us. In this Bethesda and Nintendo are optionally more alike. They both got it wrong (WiiU/Fallout76), yet as Nintendo Switch is now the golden mark of excellence, we might get the same from Bethesda (with whichever titles comes next) and that too is gaming, when the challenge is met and we get that satisfying feeling of a new challenge and we look forward to every second that comes next. That ‘Oh Yeah!‘ moment (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JB8BLMMVFLg) when you see that they are got it right. Gaming has had plenty of these, which is why developers are getting additional chances. Witcher 3, Mass Effect 2, Diablo 3, Skyrim, Metroid Prime, GTA5, the Last of Us, Golden Eye, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. The list goes on and will remain growing after tomorrow, because any developer that flops now (Far Cry) will optionally be able to hit it out of the park at a later stage (Far Cry 3) and that is gaming too, to be there and live through the successes, even after a massive failure (AC Unity anyone?)

Gamers can afford to wait as there are plenty of players offering the next golden egg, or is that the next golden eye? And with results like God of War, Forza Horizon 4, Ni no Kuni 2, and Subnautica I personally believe that the future of gaming is in good hands. No matter who gets to be called the ultimate game of 2018. There has been 45 years between Pong (1972) and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017), it was never about who had the best graphics (Minecraft 2011 is evidence of that), any category can win, any style can win (Rock Band 3 2010) and it opens us optionally to playful directions we might never have considered on day one of that game (Limbo 2010).

Personally I love the yearly gaming awards for reasons mentioned earlier, but for the most, for me it is about to consider a game that stood out in one way and merely missed out on that game initially having something to look forward to, which in my clearest case was Far Cry 3, the previous versions were not up to standard and therefor I never considered it, which gave me in the end more joy than I bargained for, exceeding expectations can end up being that rewarding.

It will be Monday morning in 60 hours, so try to take a moment and play a game this weekend, even if it is for merely an hour and it is something as simple (and highly addictive) as Minecraft.

 

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The Saint’s parcel

Today it is December 5th, in the Netherlands that means it is St Nicholas day. It is the Dutch version of Santa Claus, but with a difference. The story goes back to the Greek bishop of Myra, what is now known as Turkey (270-340 AD). Saint Nicholas is the patron Saint of children and the day preceding his birthday (6th December) it is the evening of presents and all the kids (until a certain age) will receive a present.

As you might imagine the week before all this, things can get really hectic, especially in the toy stores, on a global scale when we see Thanksgiving, St. Nicholas and Christmas, the numbers given to us by power retail ‘Cyber Monday Breaks Record, Becomes “Biggest Sales Day Ever”‘, these numbers makes sense as moments like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other deal moments with discount sales is what people look for globally so that they can show their kids that there are happy times, even if it is just for a day or two. Variety gives us (at https://variety.com/2018/gaming/news/nintendo-switch-sales-holiday-sales-figures-1203038569/) even more. With their headline ‘Nintendo Sold $250 Million in Products from Black Friday to Cyber Monday in U.S.‘, they are showing a setting that is awesome.

More important it is their e-commerce sales of games that is partially taking the cake with the statement: “The Nintendo Switch is now the best-selling Nintendo console in U.S. history for that five-day period, surpassing even Wii system sales, the company announced Wednesday.” Even as we see “Nintendo’s overall goal for the financial year of 38 million units sold, though analysts are still predicting it will fall just short, hitting about 35 million“, yet in all that the analysts are eager to avoid the one setting that matters, in under two years the Nintendo Switch is about to equal the lifetime sales of the Xbox One, a number that is very impressive as the Xbox One had 300% of the time frame to get to this point. And overall the entire Microsoft issue is expected to hit a few more bumps in the road. Software was the key in all this and Nintendo does comprehend quality software. The curve is changing for the better for Nintendo as their demo stations are all over game shops like EB Games. Parents can see how amazing it looks and as the kids are having a go at playing kart and playing Mario Odyssey, we see (as I saw) that the parents are getting a smile on their faces. It is a family friendly system, where violence is limited to a paint gun with a colour. And as we see the greats (Diablo 3) added to the Switch, we see an amazing list of games titles we see a system that is more and more overwhelming when it comes to quality gaming. A game setting where quality is not the silly notion of high level graphics, no! Quality gaming is the level of fun you get out of it and Nintendo is turning heads around and for the first time in history Sony is starting to get worried as the setting now is that this year Switch surpassed the Sony PlayStation. Now that does not means that Sony is number two, they have well over 250% in number of consoles in the field, yet the fact that Nintendo is closing the gap slightly and surpassing Microsoft has never been seen before in the age of gaming. I loved my GameCube (I still miss Mario Sunshine even today), I loved the games I had and when I saw that the Wii was backward compatible I did not hesitate, yet the Switch is showing to be up to the challenge of equalling this in quality gaming. In this we see that Nintendo is getting it right and even as I questioned the stupidity of analysts with their ‘predicting it will fall just short‘, I believe that their entire setting is bogus. Nintendo has the goods and is showing it has equaled the challenge gaining on the larger advantage that Sony has and surpassing what was once the great Microsoft console and the most powerful console? It might be, yet when it offers a mere 25% of the family fun, I wonder what some people choose.

Now, we do not state that the Xbox cannot deliver the goods, yet we have always known that Nintendo was a family and younger player system. Now that we can be on the road, play on TV (via dock) and have access to some of the most addictive games (Diablo 3, Mario Kart, Skyrim, Minecraft, Rocket league) and so many more titles we need to wonder what the others did wrong.

Well they didn’t!

They made a choice and they continued on that path, Microsoft thought what it had to compete with Sony and they did not end up doing that, they soured their own milk from the very beginning in policy and hardware, they refused to listen to their gamers and they are still losing traction in the process. Even as some corrections and some really good ideas have been launched (Game Pass), they have too much to catch on. Nintendo remained on the family fun and family friendly path and they merely gained speed, and within a year they pushed for a speed that would surpass Sony annual sales and they seemed to have done it in 2018 (the official numbers are not out yet). However the consoles and the quarter of a billion in online store sales in under a month is now showing to become the monster truck of revenue. So as I personally sneer at “Nintendo stock hit a five year high of $58.45 a share this year, only to shed more than 40 percent of its value this month, with a year-low of $33.90“, I see clear numbers that do not support the actions and recommendations of these analysts. The titles Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Splatoon 2 represent 40 million copies sold. This implies that every Nintendo Switch has at least one of these games and that is an amazing result. Now set this against a company like Ubisoft (as a mere example) with Assassin’s Creed, 100 million copies over 11 titles on 3+ systems, Far Cry, 25 million copies over 6 titles on 3+ systems and Watch Dogs with 2 titles on 3 systems, 10 million copies sold. These are all decent games and when compared to four titles on one system, we start seeing the first part where the others seem to be getting it wrong. That is the comparison that some analysts do not seem to grasp. In addition, the close to flawless results against other titles on other consoles show and we have not even started with the millions of players playing Pokemon on Nintendo handheld systems.

On the day of Saint Nicholas we look at these kids and we see the overwhelming need and desire for gaming, consoles and handhelds. For the next 4 weeks it will be about that group and I predict that Nintendo will be looking at another half a billion if the previous record is anything to go by. It is likely that Boxing Day sales will add to that revenue surpassing my prediction. Clever grandparents adding an optional $30 gift card for their grand-kids to get several games cheap on boxing day sales, adding even more to the Nintendo profit coffer.

Even Forbes gave me the thumbs up (virtually that is). They had the top purchase mention with Nintendo as one of the titles and the PS4 as the most talked about, no mention on Microsoft. Even as Apple got a few mentions, the words ‘Microsoft’, ‘Surface’ and ‘Xbox’ were absent in that view (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbes-finds/2018/11/12/5-best-headphones-under-100/#47cb25aa5239), in addition the aggressive discount that the Nintendo gives with their Switch plus Mario Kart in the Netherlands is seeing its own fair share of mentions. If the feast of Saint Nicholas has one drawback then I would think it is the longer absence of board games. Playing a game like monopoly whilst unwrapping a present whenever one player passes go was heaps fun. There was the tension which name was drawn and as present by present was opened; whilst we played monopoly and had hot chocolate milk (it is cold in the Netherlands in December) was a level of fun I still miss.

Yet, we must not forget the hardship either, and there is a lot of that and a lot more coming; in the last year over 50,000 children died in Yemen from hardship, disease and famine. I expect that in 2019 we will see that the 2018 numbers will surpass the passing of 100,000 children. The children are too young to face what other children have to go through in other places, yet we adults cannot afford to do that. If I had to forego my optional Nintendo Switch for one child in Yemen to have a decent meal, I will end up not playing a Nintendo Switch for some time to come, even as the child still dies and I merely prevented it from dying on an empty stomach, I would do so. Even as the peace talks are being held, I fear for the lack of progress, as this is not in the interest of Iran. It is still progressing on arming Houthi; it is still facilitating via Hezbollah and the children are merely in the way there. From my point of view Europe is enabling it as they want their nuclear accord, an accord that is not likely to be the value of printed paper, the Iranian missile tests can be considered proof in this. In this part Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is actually in a very dangerous place. Even as he is with an ally, as the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, we see that the danger is twofold. As more and more US politicians are seemingly ‘bashing’ Saudi Arabia, yet they seem to ignore the danger that Hezbollah is there, we see the start of imbalance, and as this imbalance continues, so do the events in Yemen killing even more children. The hollow words like ‘Iran has praised Yemeni peace talks scheduled to take place soon‘, they want their version in charge in Yemen, not the elected one and they are willing to let millions of kids die to get that done. So whilst the US gives us “The United States has displayed pieces of what it says were Iranian weapons deployed to militants in Yemen and Afghanistan“, whilst at the same time US politicians are unbalancing their allied commitment to Saudi Arabia, we see that in the end it is a political stalemate with the lives of all the Yemeni children in the balance and there is no reasonable chance that the children there will get a better deal out of it.

So as we see the independent giving us the goods and the stage of truth last week with: ‘US struggles to find footing on Yemen, as Iran increases influence‘, we see (at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/us-yemen-civil-war-iran-influence-saudi-arabia-bombing-trump-weapons-houthis-rebels-a8661546.html) that the US and mostly its politicians seem to have lost their perception on the larger game. the quote “The US Senate, angered in part by the White House response to the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, on Wednesday voted in a surprise move to advance a bill that would cut American participation in the Yemen conflict“, the emotions towards a previously unknown journalist (and ignoring all those imprisoned and dead journalists in Turkey) is setting the stage of enabling the Iran agenda. Vetoed or not, it will up the pressure on Saudi Arabia and in all this, the populist pressure is one that historically has turned anti Saudi more often than not, increasing the larger issues towards Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in other directions as well.

In all this does America even know who their allies and enemies are? The question is more important than you think, as we see on the feast of Saint Nicholas that millions of children in Yemen are abandoned. So what did this have to do with games?

When you watch your child play some Call of Duty game and you realise that it is not Battleground 5, it is not Call of Duty, or Fortnite, but it is the game ‘Holy Defense’, created by Hezbollah to let gamers and players kill ISIS members. When we are treated to: “Hezbollah has developed a 3-D computer game to capture the minds of its youth, while showing them a good time.” When you see your children play this free downloaded game in Europe and America, how much safer was the Nintendo Switch with their family values to begin with?

I agree that this is not a fair remark for Sony and Microsoft and they are not part of this in any way, but when it comes to First Person Shooters, can parents even tell the difference anymore? And when it is getting to close to the factual truth, can they even perceive how many children are getting killed in the process whilst Yemen is facing delay after delay? Should that not be the central issue on the day of the patron saint of children?

 

 

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When the old is new again

Finally the news is there; on December 3rd people from the later generation can finally see what the first PlayStation was like. You might think that there is no value in that, especially as the machine is there just before Christmas for $159. What is remarkable is the amount of games I had hoped to see and we will only get 20 games. But not to fret, the 20 games include Final Fantasy VII (not my favourite game), Metal Gear Solid, Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, Rayman, Resident Evil Director’s Cut, Syphon Filter and Tekken 3. Each of these titles would have been worthy of the full price, so to get them all is so worth it, every penny of it. There are other titles, but this is the cream of the crop and even as I was never an FFVII fan, it is for that generation the pinnacle of Final Fantasy, a claim made by many.

Some will state that the very first GTA is also a classic, for me it is merely to see how far the game evolved over 5 cycles. It goes further, even as there has been rustling in the weeds, there is still no official confirmation for the N-64 mini; you might think that this would push Nintendo across and even as we have seen certain patents to optionally revamped N-64 hardware, there is still no official confirmation.

For me it is more than merely a sentimental journey. It should be the momentum to open the eyes of any optional game designer on how far games had gotten three cycles ago. In this stage that we were merely stopped by resources and in the end we get to see that the lack of resources made the game designers a lot more creative in adapting technology to the max. Even as I irritatingly got confronted last night with the Far Cry failure and taking into account “Far Cry 5 is a game that takes excess as ethos, yet, in pursuing that goal of more-more-more, stretches itself so thin as to offer up nothing at all” (source: Vice), we need to contemplate when is more actually less in the end? In my case it is the stage of adding more and more in Far Cry 4 that got to me (trying to get a few more achievements by replaying the game). It is my personal believe that Ubisoft should give both devices to the game developers and see if they learn something from it. The demonic precision and challenge that is known as Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey is perhaps the most visible one. As puzzles go, I have never met anyone who without cheating and hacking got all 100. And even as I do not oppose people seeking the internet solutions, I have never met anyone who got all 100 in one play through; it might not even be possible. To get this on a system with 2 MB RAM and 1 MB VRAM, with a disc that stores 650MB that is the lesson right there. Now we do not want a copy of that game, but the ability to give something that is still revered 21 years later, that does count. I don’t expect Ubisoft, or many others to ever pull it off, yet does not also show our growing common lack of creativity?

Personally I thought Tenchu Z, not the greatest game, was still an awesome stealth game to play. The Xbox360 gave us a cool version of a 1998 game. Even as the score was a mere 56%, the fact that no one took that to the next level is a surprise. Even as the game had issues, it also had clear promise and direction towards a much better game. There are several reviews that have given since that Tenchu Z was underrated and I support that. It reflects back to the PS mini as we see (for all valid reasons) that Soul Edge and the Tombraider games might be missing, we do see an amazing classic Resident Evil Director’s Cut, that whilst the remake of Resident Evil 2 is about to launch, showing us what a dedicated fan can do when he gets his hands on a true classic. No matter how we view this, the first two set the bar high enough making it impossible to equal for several years and that took some doing. The remake is not merely a remaster; it gives new light to hardware what it can achieve when it is kicked to a higher level. Its application of torches (what the original did not do) as well as the challenge of limitation and choice pretty much made me shit my pants and for a video game to achieve that takes effort and dedication.

The danger is that someone merely makes a new version. I did not mind that, especially in the case of Loderunner (CBM64), or The Sentinel that when it got converted to PC, with music by John Carpenter himself, I was delighted to still feel the buzz of playing that game. Yet is it not time to add 20 years of games evolution and max out games that can be taken to the next stage? Even as we eagerly await the remake of System Shock (and hopefully System shock 2), we need to see that the older systems do have gems that still await their turn in getting a polishing and technological upgrades. I believe that Seven Cities of Gold (Amiga) could have all kinds of educational insights, not unlike the original SimCity did. The same could be said for Richard Garriott and a trilogy of his achievements (Ultima 3, 4 and 5), Ultima (6) and Ultima 7+7b in the third part. The power of one island with all games over time, a place 9 times the size of Skyrim with 6 main stories and close to a hundred side stories, it could optionally equal AC Odyssey in time to complete. We are already seeing an upcoming version of the Bards Tale, so the idea is not that novel, yet I see that the main players are still not looking into that direction, which is a shame. When a reviewer from PC Gamers gives you: “Three hours into the beta of The Bard’s Tale 4, I realized how late I’d stayed up puzzling my way through the labyrinth beneath a wizard’s castle“, you should be able to consider that these remasters and remakes are a clear golden path to good gaming and we all want good gaming. I personally believe that whilst we admire all the things Bethesda has done, I believe that it was The Witcher 3 that truly gave the RPG bar a nudge into a much higher direction and those who played it want a lot more than we had in the past. I believe that this is driving the players (and perhaps their desire to get Cyberpunk 2077 as soon as possible). I loved every moment of Bethesda RPG gaming and still do (after playing those games for well over 5000 hours), yet it missed a part (unintentionally), even as Bethesda was all about you shaping your character and the world around you, Project Red gave us Geralt of Rivia to play and the person that he is a pure blend of light and dark that we found overwhelmingly addictive. Project Red got the jackpot with that character and pretty much all the gamers want more of him, or perhaps better stated a taste of someone else like him.

So how can we evolve gaming? I do not believe it is better hardware; it never was about the hardware. When you consider the GameCube, it had 24MB RAM, 16MB of DRAM a 1.5GB RAM optical disc (30% of a DVD) and even today finding something that equals Metroid Prime (one and two) is pretty impossible. It is about the quality game and we need a new generation of game developers to open that gaming superhighway, and this is where the PS mini can open doors. You see Creativity is within a person, you can polish it, you can teach that person skills to tap into that creativity, yet when that person cannot tap into creativity, the best thing we can hope for is a new version of a spreadsheet program.

Limitations drives creativity, but it needs to be within that person. Here again we need to go to Ubisoft, because the game ‘With Honor‘ shows that Jason Vandenberghe has creativity and loads of it. It was not my game because I prefer to play alone, I am not a multiplayer gamer, and With Honor was all about multiplayer, which is fair enough. It might not have been the game for me, but I was pretty amazed with the game. We can Monday morning quarterback that game all we like, yet in the end it was a well-made game. Here too I believe that the 80% score was underrated (by close to 12%), and that is whilst I am no fan of multiplayer games.

I believe that Ubisoft is sitting on a hundred million dollars of underestimated or neglected potential and even as we accept that making games costs a lot of money, sitting on a chest worthy of funding a dozen games, a chest that is collecting dust seems like such a waste. Consider that Far Cry 5 81% could have easily added 10%, how much sales was lost because of that? In this I add parts of a list called ‘14 Ubisoft Video Games – Ranked From Worst to Best‘ and see what could have been done better.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity. There is no avoiding that title, the QA, the testing and the AI bugs were a joke. This game should not have been released before proper testing would have been done, but we have been here a few dozen times, so let’s move on.

Zombi (PS4 Edition). A game that was actually better on the WiiU, can we get any clearer, a decent idea was not properly set forward making it a joke. This went beyond testing, I can only speculate that it was never properly programmed and the original had loads of potential, for the limitations of the WiiU, the makers actually got a whole lot further, even as the random spawning had a few knockbacks of their own the end result on the PS4 was pretty much completely unacceptable.

Watch Dogs. I had this as a day one order (with the PS4 launch), so I was miffed. It went further in the game with programmed settings and a few other quirks (a lot of them) the game fell short in many ways (that is even beside the delay that outstretched any pregnancy), yet the concept was pretty good, I made the AC1 comparison that as an original it had potential and just like AC2, the game would make or break. Watchdogs two was weird in some way, but it was so much better, the second game made the franchise, so that was good. The first game had a good story, we all could relate to it, yet some parts were too awkward and it never got fixed or improved.

The Division. Again a multiplayer game, which was not my thing, yet the story line, was immersive and people around me really went for the game. So as we passed a few quirks and bugs (blocking the door being the most visible one), we see a game that in its first premiere has loads of potential, potential brought to light, yet these flaws were not deadly and that too is important to recognise. the two parts that Forbes gives us is “As excited as I am that The Division has matchmaking for every single activity, for daily missions, it’s a complete and utter disaster“, as well as “I mean it is literally bugged to all hell where you are lucky if you can even start a game, much less finish one”. They are both indicatory of larger failings and beta playtesting to a much larger extent might have shown the weakness, yet the biggest issue in these games will be hackers and cheaters. I do not mind that they are around, but when I get fleeced for everything I have, it becomes annoying really fast. Still it is a franchise with optional forward momentum, that too much be recognised.

Far Cry 3. We need to look at this, as it is quintessential the best Far Cry ever, the main adversary Vaas Montenegro (brilliantly voiced by Michael Mando) is amazing, the graphics are good, the stealth is stellar and the challenges are equally from out of this world. Chasing all these objects are well overboard (not in a good way) and the stage of cell towers and outposts are pretty amazing. the ballistics are a problem as I have never seen any tiger walk away from a .50 headshot let alone 2, but if that is as bad as it gets we have a winner here and that is exactly what it was, a winner. From this it was downhill, 4, Primal and 5 are nowhere the third puppy (neither were one and two for that matter) and even as 5 is a step forward in many directions, the game in the end was not a better end product. This ended as Vice gave us: “Far Cry 5 is a game that takes excess as ethos, yet, in pursuing that goal of more-more-more, stretches itself so thin as to offer up nothing at all” and they are right.

Assassin’s Creed II. The game that should be regarded as the franchise starter of the AC range is brilliant, even as there are a few issues; the game was so far forward from AC1 that we eagerly forgot about the flaws we saw. The game in every respect shows that it is the fortune maker for Yves Guillemot and his two baby brothers (Michael and Gerard). Even as AC Brotherhood was more of the same, it was still forward momentum in a few ways. These two games were the start of an addiction but also the end of the original push forward, in the end what came after was more of the same with too little forward momentum, It actually reflects TombRaider, which after the second one was trying to be too clever and ‘deceptive’ with twists, yet we never got something really new, just more and that would not change until the definitive version was released.

In the end we could also look at Splinter Cell and how that went not forward, but more and if you love stealth, you will love more, yet in blacklist the ball was dropped by too far and that is what hampered Ubisoft. This is seen when you consider that the ratings went from 94%, to 89%, to 85% and 84%. I would have thought that after the second rating alarms would have been raised, they might have been, but they did not work. It is this path that needs to be reflective in all this, because if we consider Watchdogs 3, Whatever AC comes next, the Division 2, Far Cry 6 and Hopefully another Splinter Cell, Ubisoft needs to consider on how to make the games actually better, not merely bigger, or give us more of the same. the story will be everything, yet the playability with have a massive weight on the vision handed to the players that is where a few dozen million Euros are hidden and Ubisoft might lose out on that; the amount of missed money represents well over 50 of my life time earnings, so I think that some of the people behind the players need to take a serious look on how to secure said optionally lost funds. I see it in another direction, if my mind can construct a virtual foundation of (an imaginative) Elder Scrolls VII within eight hours, how many opportunities did some designers lose by not truly investigate the projects they were working on? I might have been in games since 1984, but I know I am not the best, I have met the best (Peter Molyneux, Richard Garriott and Sid Meier) and I know they surpass me by a lot, yet I have the drop on some developers today and that saddens me. They should be running loops around me without breaking a sweat.

The gaming world is ready for new unique games and new franchises, even as some of the older games might point the way, we see that finding a new game, and actual new original game is a hard thing to do, it can only be done by a dreamer, a dreamer that others will listen too, an artist to give view to the dream, a programmer to set the stage and a writer to translate the dreams into stories, even as the writer and the dreamer are likely the same person, the place where the two acts are done is likely to be different and until that part is recognised, the making of any new 90%+ franchise will remain out of reach for all developers like Ubisoft. If you doubt that part, merely look at the history of a game called Lemmings. I tested it initially and I remember on how Psygnosis got to the game in the first place, so when you think that all good games are a calculated results of proper investigation, think again. A game released in 1991, whilst we still see today: “The best Amiga game of all time (2011)“, you better believe that artsy has everything to do with it. This is quite literally the shit that gamers live for, how else can you explain the desire after decades for a game like System Shock (or the remake of FFVII for that matter)?

If there is one part that must be told, than it would be the part that I never saw coming. For that we need to look at the Xbox360. I never knew the game, so I got caught off guard. I initially did not buy it as I was playing Bioshock 2 and awaiting both Fable 3 and New Vegas. So when I heard the score, I got curious. One gave it 90% the other 83%, this piqued my curiosity and it was not disappointed. They say that 97% liked this game and that should have been the rating. Mikael Kasurinen, Sam Lake, Mikko Rautalahti and Petri Järvilehto surpassed themselves and many game designers with Alan Wake. The game was everything we hope for and more, the setting of a mere danger by being in the dark was a direct original approach to our primal fear (even in games) and Alan Wake did use that to the max. It was an amazing stage of open world and level challenge all into one and your life does depend on the power of a battery here, so there was that to get worried about. Alan Wake also shown that the creative dreamer will always have the advantage over the stage of calculated new versions of a franchise. Even as Alan Wake might have that fear to deal with, the original was more challenging than many other developers were able to give us and Microsoft Studios actually created an instant classic on launch day, something not many game developers have ever achieved.

I never saw it coming, so I do not hold all the wisdoms, I will not even make such a claim even as the article might imply it. The fact that a game like Alan Wake could surprise me to such a degree is also the reason why I am still a gamer, just like a junkie hoping for its next fix of amazement. The nice thing here is that it is a lot cheaper than either Heroin or Cocaine, so there is that benefit for any gamer too.

We seem to chase the old to get a new version because of that feeling of amazement, which is good in one way (especially the owners of the IP), yet the lack of true new IP is also a worry for the gamers and getting the right developers and creating the right programmers is not about giving them all the resources, but to teach them how to overcome shortcomings in current architecture. It is not the programmes that maximises a system we need, it is the one who gets it done on a 75% system that is the one we need to get. Merely because that game will be lean, it will be mean and it will still transgress the borders that a seasoned programmer did not consider. to be able not to merely to make a stronger game, but to set a proper stage where replaying that game is just as rewarding as playing it the first time, that is the classic of tomorrow going home with a 95%+ rating and taking home the coffers of gold. This is what all the game developers need and some are in the process of getting there; it would be a shame if players like Ubisoft and EA games miss out because they were not willing, or able to go that distance.

And as a gamer as well as a dreamer, consider the game when you add AI in the mix, not the AI of the enemy, but the AI that you as the gamer get to shape. In this we need to consider an oldie like Sundog, Frozen Legacy by FTL Games (the maker of the legendary Dungeon Master and Oids). Now consider that the game starts with only you, but as you shape the AI, you can hand your navigation skills to an android and grow your crew. The game will only be as good as you are. As you grow the positions on the ship upgrade the ship and get a larger one. You will need to get more knowledge and only when you have one placement over a certain percentage an android can take over. You have to be the navigator, helmsman, the tactician and the engineer. You need to master one role after another, downloading your skill enhancements into the android and growing a crew, not programmed intelligence, but your game interactions that are transferred to the android. What game thought of that? Actually Epyx had a game called Chip Bits, yet I don’t think it ever made the light of day.

If such an addition is added to a game like Elite Dangerous when you upgrade from a 31 meter Eagle fighter to an 88 meter Python (see Image), how many hundreds of hours of gameplay would that get you? Elite Dangerous now has 30 playable ships and you have the option of ‘merely’ flying the ship, yet what extra will you get when you are adding functions and you have to repair the ship under combat conditions? A side that Sundog had to the minimum degree and with 1MB RAM the Atari ST did not get far, yet it gave us more than some games currently do, is that not weird either?

There have been so many games between 1984 (CBM-64) and 2005 (Xbox360), a timeline filled with gems, many of these gems could be the foundation of jewelry that is multifaceted, colourful and challenging in so many ways. Many of these are not merely remasters; they could be the foundation of new and optionally uniquely new IP.

In this, the CEO of Ubisoft might have stated it the best when he said: “There will be one more console generation and then after that, we will be streaming, all of us“, that might be true, so getting to new IP now makes perfect sense, in many ways. to do that in the streaming age is a dangerous move for a few reasons, mainly because the streaming power will not be with the gaming side of things, it will be with the telecom providers and there have been more than just a few indicators that this will start in the most rocky of ways, especially outside of metropolitan areas. I have had this issue a few times to a smaller degree, yet as we consider that this is 2 weeks old “Optus say it is congestion but can’t explain how you can get 100 mbs and then the next minute you have a dropout. They appear to be doing nothing as they can’t say how long it will take to fix or what they are doing to address the issue. Have been a customer for over 25 years but the last 6 months the service has been substandard“, I believe that this goes (a lot) further than just one provider, congestion is increasing all over the global field and until some telecom providers (multiple providers) get their house in order and up their game, streaming games will become more and more hazardous over time, it will take years to get this environment a lot better and 5G is not making it any easier. So the next generation of consoles is the best time to maximise IP, because the IP after that will end up not having as much value as the blame game between telecom providers and game developers are likely to flare and they will flare up all over the planet (or is that this planet).

It goes beyond mere gaming. You see The Network Congestion 2030 project, launched in 2009 (for airports), was designed as a two phased approach towards solving congestion issues, yet when we see that approach in the Netherlands we see “Unlike the Telecommunications Act, the Regulation furthermore allows Internet Service Providers to take reasonable traffic management measures, e.g. to avoid imminent network congestion. Such measures must be transparent, non-discriminatory and proportionate, and may not be based on commercial considerations. The Telecommunications Acts allows Internet Service Providers to intervene in the Internet data flows only if a data accumulation must be controlled. A frequent criticism of the Regulation is that it is difficult to monitor traffic management measures aimed at avoiding imminent congestion, which may give rise to abuse. An example in the Netherlands related to network congestion is the ACM’s decision of 2013 to put an end to its investigation of the restriction of free Internet in trains by T-Mobile. ACM concluded that the blocking of certain internet services by T-Mobile was permissible to prevent “traffic jams” on the network“, with the mention of ‘may not be based on commercial considerations‘ we see the optional impact on gamers, because these systems have not been tested with millions of gamers streaming, in European terms even tens of millions. Netflix had a dramatic growth (after this entire issue started) and as gamers do the same added to that same construction devoid of much larger expansions the impact will be there and it will be there very visible; throttling streams will make them collapse and that is where we see that down the track the impact on gamers will be much larger and they are for now, not even considered.

So as the old becomes new, we see new challenges and other obstacles that are now not in the hands of non-gamers, but they will be the moment that streaming congestion becomes the daily reality of every gamer.

So the need of being able to be creative and set the stage for a 75% resource solution would at that point become crystal clear at the moment the situation emerges. Merely a new iteration of complications to solve in addition of all the other corrections needed. At that point to have a much better QA will be essential for the IP holder not to go bust almost overnight. You merely have to consider the Division launch day crash and the idea that this could happen once a month at the very least in that new setting. It will be something that is not the fault of Ubisoft, not the fault of the designers, it will merely be the impact of congestion and the telecom provider will mention that they are sorry, but it is out of their hands and they cannot explain to you why it happened.

Oh and this issue is as stated a global one, in the end you cannot blame the game makers when the issue is that your gaming evening depends on something like the Comcast outage map. When you see: “Comcast/Xfinity is reporting a widespread outage in the south suburbs” and you miss out on the season challenges of whichever game you are playing because of: “An aerial pole in Harvey was reportedly struck, damaging 288 cables, according to Comcast officials. The outage is expected to last until approximately 3:30 pm” and you can forget about gaming that day, that is when you get the first moment of irritation with streaming. In single play you can still get your gaming on, games like Elite Dangerous fall away that day and starting Fortnite becomes a foregone illusion. When all games become a streaming experience you might in the end only end up having Minecraft in offline mode available, a great game, yet when it is the only game it is more likely than not the evening you never banked on, or hoped for.

 

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