Tag Archives: Splinter Cell

the next game stage

There is a new game coming. Keith Stuart writes about it and is taking loads of space for it. The title ‘Far Cry 5’s violent civil unrest is a much-needed reality check for games‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jun/02/far-cry-5-games-civil-unrest-trump-us-reality-ubisoft). Now, you know hat I have issues with Ubisoft. My issue with Far Cry is even more out there. Let’s start with my introduction to the game. I started it once on the Xbox 360, that version was my introduction to the game. In the past I have only ever returned 2 titles, Far Cry was returned the next morning. I did not like it. I thought it to be a bad game. Now, this is not the end or the killer here. We will always have a game that seemed interesting but ended up not being the game we signed up for. So I ignored Far Cry 2 completely and initially Far Cry 3 as well.

I had heard good things regarding the third game, yet we don’t all like the same games, so as such I have no issue with Far Cry. Next thing I get to (several months later) is that my PSN plus allows me a free download of Far Cry 3, so as I had heard good things, I downloaded it and had a go. Boy oh boy, what an excellent game that was. It starts great with the intro and Vaas is just one of the greatest lowlife badass villains in gaming history and the game stays on a decent high note, which is rare for an open game like that. Yes, there are issues, there is repetition (to some degree), yet the part that a game took a 300% improvement over the first game is stunningly rare. So I was on board! Yet, as we got to Far Cry 4, Ubisoft was facing a lot of issues. I believe that they started in 2013. You see, Black Flag was a good game, yet as I see it it was not an Assassins Creed game. Someone dropped the ball here in a massive way. You see, Black Flag could have been the pirate game that Sid Meier could never make because technology stopped him. The game is excellent in so many ways, but it was not an AC game (my personal view). It had a few other issues, but lets not squander time on those details. Ubisoft with the large issues of Watchdogs was already on the ropes, that is when we got AC Unity (a failure in so many ways, graphical glitches not being the biggest one), Far Cry 4 arrived and The Division was delayed (and would receive more delays until 2016). So Far Cry was already under the gun. It was more about explosions, too much repetition, running back to the outpost you just freed. The game had its fair share of issues. The biggest one was that it was basically a new crazy person and pretty much getting the same thing done. This last part does not need to be a bad thing, yet it was not great either. Like the previous game, the graphics were great, the AI was still shoddy (not the worst part of it all). I found that there were too much scripted issues. Wave after wave after wave of attacks, their AI not being great lessening the joy of the game. yet some parts were brilliant too. the dream missions to the temples were really awesome as it added a little more to it all.

So as I saw the choice for Far Cry 5, I saw another path, not necessarily a bad one, but a different one. The quote “I began to get the sense that America was ready for a Far Cry,” said producer Dan Hay during a recent press event is a fair one, it could be anywhere, so why not the US? The next quote gives us “The group gathers under the edict ‘Freedom, Faith and Firearms’ which is so close to the language of pro-gun religious right firebrands it cannot be coincidence. Furthermore, during the press event, the 2016 armed takeover of a federal building by a civilian militia in Oregon was even name-checked as an influence, tightening the game’s connections with the modern US, with civil unrest and unease, and with the intricate connections between religion, politics and gun control“, which should increase the interest in the game. I remember Bethesda Fallout 3, I was hooked, because I have been to that area, yes it was in 1998 and it was recognising the train station and how alike it was, just added a bit to it all. It is like watching a movie (3 in my case) as the shoots were in the places you have been in (one in my street), it just adds a little tingle on your spinal cord when you see it. This would be the same if an open world arena is placed in an area you know and recognise. When it includes events that actually happen, the suspense of the game goes up, so good for Ubisoft here. Yet now we see Keith going into the wrong direction with “The politics of Trump’s US and Brexit Britain are fascinating cauldrons of fear, uncertainty and division“, which is not false, but he does not mention that ‘cauldrons of uncertainty‘ are created by the media as it prefers too often to leave the people in the shadows instead of clearly exposing certain elements. Yet he hits the nail on the head with “Fear and truth make great, compelling art and the idea of a game steeped in the complex politics of the modern US is hugely enticing“, that is shown as the desire of Cyberpunk 2077 just keeps growing. In addition, the option to drown in ‘fear and truth‘ is not enough, as I see it, the gamer wants to influence both become the decider. In that we need not just more of it, we would like something truly new (or reengineered). Consider the chances that Far Cry 5 will have hunting not just for food, but to increase your backpack? Why not just for food? Why not the need to find scrap and other materials to upgrade the backpack, or the pouch, or whatever? Montana is not a small place. So are they looking at that part? Perhaps they are, it is to soon to tell, yet what if your success is not just to prove yourself to one native American? What if a better chance would depend on getting connections to the Blackfoot, the Cheyenne and Crow? Perhaps this is done, we will know when the game arrives. Keith writes that Ubisoft is ‘already taking steps away from broader controversies‘, which is actually a shame, because it is in the limelight of possibilities where true legendary games are shaped. In addition, we see “And by framing the group as a crazed sect, rather than a plausible conservative right-wing operation, the game distorts any sense of true representation.” Now, this is a shame, because keeping that as close to the reality could be a really good thing. Do not forget that some of these conservative groups are only made crazy by the media. Some prefer to be left alone, they get along with their neighbours, but most important, there is growing evidence that they are not always the bad guys. If we just look at the EPA violations in Montana, and how they were settled, some for less then $400K whilst the cleaning of the water is often no longer a possibility. So skating closer to the reality and options and opportunities could make Far Cry a true legendary game, yet will they go there? I doubt it, we will have to see. I like the very end where we see: “Whatever happens with Far Cry 5 it is at least a tacit admission of something important. We can’t, with a straight face, claim that video games are the storytelling medium of the 21st century, unless we’re telling stories about our real lives, our real fears and the very real monsters around us“, which is actually a really good path to consider. So as we have looked at covert spies (Splinter Cell), at the option to survive in the wild against crazy evil people (Far Cry) and as we have protected the good by cutting throats (Assassins Creed), so what happens when we take certain TV series to an entirely new level? What if we had Washington DC mapped in detail and we re-release ‘Covert Action’, but now we use the latest in digital options, in surveillance where you would have to break into places of ill repute (the North Korean Embassy for example) and truly hunt for intelligence by hacking and gathering intel? To become an actual data broker. Now some is not done on those locations, some happen in server rooms, in cars, in apartments. However, the idea to take Watchdogs and Splinter Cell to a new level, one that is based on an actual flowing political situation? Could that be done to the degree that gamers would like to go. Yet in this game, we apply legal issues as well, so murders are a problem, evidence is an issue, more important, visibility of any kind would stop you to take missions on. You see, the setting in a game is one, but it is set on a storyline, because that is the part that gets us through the game. We can accept that scripted issues happen, especially in the intro of the game, yet we tend to find interference of scripting a lot less fun in the game. In Far Cry 3 with Vaas, it was resolved pretty brilliantly, yet it would always happen there at that point. So what happens when the game has a path that is altered by parameters? What if the shift from Acta to Actb suddenly shifts?

For example, that the Dead Space path has two additional elements, one is time (the longer it takes, the less time you get for the asteroids, or the more subsystem you repair, additional paths or rooms become available later on. We see that story driven games are confining, yet open world games lack direction at times. So as we do every mission in Skyrim or Oblivion we tackle the game in one go, but if we are another race or gender, or even the actual time? What if that decides our missions and paths? I see it as a way to ignite a larger value for replayability. Paths that have been ignored for the longest time in gaming. Although Dishonored gave us additional options to get somewhere based on our powers, that is exactly one of those reasons why Dishonored is a ladder higher than most other games. In such ways Ubisoft dropped the ball in several games. Primal could have given us more if certain considerations were made. It seems more and more that it is not entirely with the makers. It seemed to me (I could be wrong) that Ubisoft Marketing thinks it knows its gamers and from that limited view ‘decisions’ are made that seems to be more and more about the stakeholders, and not the need to get a 95%+ game. They have settled for less, whilst the impression is clear that within the timeframe other considerations could have increased the value and the need for the game. Again, that is just my personal view. So as we see other games coming this year, we will more likely than not see the failing of certain other choices, which is a real shame, because we were truly baffled by Assassins Creed 2 and Far Cry 3. Games that took the edge of gaming, and stretched it making the world of gaming truly larger. So they do have the ability to do that. Yet whether they still have it remains to be seen, time will tell us that. yet the fact that Watchdogs, Far Cry 4 and AC Syndicate are nowhere near the reviews of AC 2 and Far Cry 3 are gives us the clear need to not stay on the same path. In addition, the least stated on Mafia 3 regarding this, the better for all involved. We can agree and accept that some winners face hardship as a flaw was introduced, that happens (Microsoft Vista for example), yet from that we got the winner Windows 7, some Ubisoft titles could end up on the same high path. They only need one person with vision to make it happen.

I have to conclude that Ubisoft due to their number of titles was chosen, yet I think we can agree that other makers have made similar mistakes (Mass Effect Andromeda anyone?) For me it is almost a crusade, not against Ubisoft, but for the next Assassins Creed to give us the buzz that the second and brotherhood gave us. If it is done before, it can be done again! The Ubisoft graphics department proved that by setting a new level of graphical excellence with Black Flag.

Let’s all hope for the best!

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What did you expect?

This all started with an article in the Guardian last December, in the air of ‘it was a day plus one before Santa‘, the title ‘Game shares fall 40% after profit warning‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/dec/23/game-shares-fall-40-percent-after-profit-warning-xbox-one-ps4). You see, none of this should be a surprise to anyone. When we look today we see all these ‘what will come in 2016‘ articles (read: multiple) and that is JUST the Guardian, not even a serious gaming source. Another article kicks of one of its paragraphs with ‘E3 WILL BRING SURPRISES‘ and then it reverts to the mundane “This year, we can expect Nintendo’s new machine and plenty of VR games but, beyond that, little is known. And that’s just how we like it“, if that is so, then why waste space on it in January whilst that event is 22 weeks away. Ignoring the event for no less than 10 weeks would not have been out of place. That article ends with ‘A YEAR OF BIG GAMES‘, where we see the quote “but most exciting for gamers are the big sequels“, with several mentions of games that had been delayed from 2015. What they all forget is an element the mentioned article will give you.

So let us take a look!

The subtitle is as good a place as any to start. It states ‘Gamers failed to buy enough games for new consoles to make up for a steep fall in demand for older formats‘, so how about giving the reality of the games which means the subtitle should have been ‘Game developers fail to deliver quality, they failed in many cases on delivering on time, some delayed until 2017, creating a new level of gaming uncertainty‘ that subtitle would have been on point. Assassins Creed is one of those titles, Unity failed massively, the reason for mentioning it is because Syndicate did not become the success it could have been mainly because of Unity. A game that used to be sold out on special editions is now getting flogged for $50 including art book, statue, extra missions and soundtrack. A game sold at 33% of the initial value, new in box. Yes, I give you right now that Syndicate does not deserve to be regarded as a failure, but it remains a non-success. It still has an amount of glitches and issues that go back all the way to brotherhood, they have never been addressed. Mass NPC issues remain and the list goes on, yet again, the graphics department delivered, sound delivered too. There are in mission issues, yet for the most they did work OK, in a few cases they were actually decently brilliant. Yet in all this the NPC issues rose. For example, I can get attacked and the police does not act. I pull a knife and they all start shooting, even in my own (read: liberated) areas. The fact that they act on me is one thing, the fact that they do not act against my attackers is another thing. It becomes even more a joke when a fellow Rook NPC keeps on pulling his knife against my kidnap target alerting the police who now has a go at me too, all scripted screw ups that were not addressed. Yet overall the latest AC is not a failure, in the same light that I placed the Ubisoft business model in the past, planning for non-failure also means that you will never get an exceptional success. Perhaps Ubisoft will catch on at some point (one would hope, would one not?)

But this is not about Ubisoft, they are just one element in a group of many.

The quote: “However, independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said he was “staggered” by Game’s profit warning after John Lewis boasted of strong sales of computer games earlier this week. “We had just begun to wonder if Game Digital might be a good recovery stock,” he said. The department store said gaming and console sales were up 180% in the week to 19 December, picking them out as one of its Christmas bestsellers“, but based on what was this? Special in house deals with 2 games? Places like EB Games are offering new 1TB consoles with 4 or 5 games that is quite the Christmas pick. Oh and what are the numbers? When you normally sell 10 consoles 180% really does not amount to that much. I would think that Nick Bubb would have done his homework a little more meticulously, or perhaps staggering was a factor after he learned that £2290 is not something that gives price to 180% (I am not saying that I know their sales numbers, but I am asking why no one else is making a clear investigation there). And on what margins are those placed? A £299 console is one thing, one with 3 games at £279 is a good deal for the buyer, but it equally means it is a product without margin for the shops.

Yet the big UK player Game should have known that this issue is a lot more clear, so the statement “Game said a 20% rise in sales of games for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 had not offset a 57% slump in sales of older Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games” is a mere given, something they should have known going into the holiday season. You see, many big titles have been delayed, what was coming before Christmas is now coming in March and in a few cases in April. Big titles have not been the success they were supposed to be and in all this So when another article in the Guardian one day later reports “According to the industry body Ukie, sales of new boxed console games in the UK fell 6.3% in 2014 to £935m, and were overtaken by the 17.6% rise in sales of digital console and PC games to £1.05bn“, we should ask the question that Stuart Dredge might have been trying to hide within the text. The issue is “The Steam Winter Sale has gone live today, Dec. 22nd, and runs until January 4th“, yes ‘in sales of digital console and PC games‘ translates to Steam sales for PC games, a place where games were down by 50%, in several cases even down by 80%, so as many game shops have a non-return or exchange policy for PC games (which does make perfect sense), people are happy to download a few 4GB packages (in some cases not more than 2) and store that on their multi-Terabyte drives and the list included discounted games like Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid 5 and Just Cause 3. So, when we know this, the ‘staggered’ response by Nick Bubb comes across as extremely insincere. Perhaps he did not do his homework? How can a person in that field not be up to date as to what Steam does and how that impact the shops, you see Steam has done this before, so it can’t have been that unexpected.

In that same issue we have places like Game and EB Games. In some cases they rely on fans who want their new upcoming Dark Souls 3 (the apocalypse edition) and that game will likely sell out in mere minutes, yet the dangers when a shop is losing space to a stack of Charing Cross editions, because the previous version was so bad is in equal measure not that weird a surprise.

There is still one other part that links to this. You see, we all play the way we can, some only play the way that they can afford and Microsoft has been dubious in several actions, the issues now arising from the Windows 10 update give more towards the fear that at the earliest moment Microsoft will close the valve on ‘pre-owned’ games, a side people rely upon because the average working family no longer has a spare £50 for a new game. Hell, most people in London are hard pressed to have £50 for simple things like food, so how is the drop in revenue such a big mystery?

The UK (as well as many other places on this world) have been dealing with a sliding cost of living crises. It has been around for 2 years and too many people are ignoring this fact, in any normal household games will be the first one to vanish from any budget consideration, which gives rise to the growing need of places like Steam, because between no gaming and playing a game 2 years old at £5, people usually tend to know what to do. The interesting side is that many of those games do not need the latest hardware, actually, those steam consoles will support the bulk of those games on high quality settings, so the Nextgen consoles are losing their footing, a fact that someone like Nick Bubb should have been aware of straight of the bat.

Are you still confused?

Open your wallet, consider your bank account (your present balance) and now go to any gaming store and get a new game. How many of you will actually do that? As I see it, 40% cannot afford it, 60% does not want to do this because they either do not care for games (which is fair enough), they have other bills to pay (which is fair enough too), or they are waiting for one of those delayed games, because they can only afford a game 3-4 times a year. These are given situations for well over 80% of the people in the UK, in addition it is a similar size in most of the EEC nations, so why exactly are we surprised on these sliding scales? I cannot answer why many readers are surprised (many might be genuinely surprised), but we should ask a few serious questions when retail gurus like Nick Bubb are absent in comprehension. In that case we should be asking a few other questions.

And games are not out of the woods yet, not for the near immediate future. Yes, most of us will run towards No Man’s Sky the day it is released (in around 22 weeks), but consider how we as gamers (millions of us) find fun and joy in a $20 game named Minecraft, or on the Tablets on a $5 game named Blockheads, how long until the analysts are catching on the hyped inflated games galore for PC and next gen is a massive marketing mesh that is short term, based upon a turnover need from the initial 21 days of release? We will always want games like Skyrim, Fallout 4, GTA, Diablo 3 and a few others, but that list is a lot shorter than those marketeers will admit to and the large players remain in denial. Hoping on a new shooter online where people do nothing more that run and ‘super jump’ on all levels like it was the first version of Unreal Tournament. How long until that gets boring and old? The remake Doom might be the first one that infuses life into that group, a mere original gems in a mountain of too many fake crystals.

Yes, we will see a few games we all want, we will see games that we thought we wanted because as games developers rely on hype, they are equally extremely unwilling to give out review copies until AFTER the game is released, because it would hurt numbers and the press at large (the real one and the gaming press) tends to be too often in need of advertisers to actually do something about it.

Finally we get back to Ubisoft, but now for very different reasons. You see, they are offering something called a ‘humble bundle’, which one place stated costed $1. I cannot verify this, but the offer (regardless of price) includes:

  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist ($10 or more)
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier ($10 or more)
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction
  • Beta access to The Division

One source implies that the price is open, but if you paid a few bucks more (like $11) you got a few additional beauties. I was never a Rainbow Six fan, but a huge Splinter cell fan and even only those games at $11 is an impressive deal, so when you consider this, when you see that PC gamers are offered a steamy steam life with excellent not so new games, in a price range that most people could afford, how is the 40% drop in shares of Game still a mystery?

The gaming world is in an uproar, because they did not tap the vein of quality when they should, they did not press forward for true non-annual innovation when they could, leaving marketing to make the call on hype, instead of truly addressing their fan base needs. An expensive mistake that has led to the downfall of the biggest players (EA and Ubisoft), gamers are realising more and more that indie developers will bring what they desire, a great gaming experience; and only now is the press at large considering that the need of advertisement revenue and the need of their readers base is not aligned, the question becomes how will this be addressed?

I do know that when the press is relying on a ‘staggered’ Nick Bubb for gaming, too many people might be looking in the wrong direction.

 

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Questioning Assurance

A positive approach intended to question confidence. That is at the heart of the matter today. I have been involved in such tracks before, but in a slipping age of technology, where we see greed driven (or bonus driven) changes where some executives hide behind the excuse of giving new young Turks a start in the business, we need to wonder whether they were looking at the world through chartreuse glasses.

I have seen the stupidity (for the lack of a better word) of software firms pushing out software, some to make sure they kept some deadline, whilst the product was nowhere near ready. In a few cases they thought the product was truly ready and the QA department messed up in a royal kind of way. There is of course the third option, where a product was tested, was deemed good and things pop up. These are the three parts of QA the user faces, I have seen them all!

The third one is the clearest one. Development does its work, the QA department did all the test and then some and when released things go a little awry. Weirdly enough, this tends to happen to parts of the program that people seldom use, like that weird, off the wall setting that only 0.000001% of all Microsoft Word users tend to use. Microsoft had no idea, and at some point it gets fixed. This is just a flaw. You name a product, like anything in the range of Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Oracle, SPSS, Sybase or SAS Miner, they all have them. These programs are just too large to get 100% tested, and even when that happens, there is the interaction with another program, or with an operating system update that will then throw a spanner in the cogs. You only need to search for issues with Windows 8.2 or IOS 8.2 to see that things just happen. In the zero layer, we see the hardware, in layer one we get the operating software, in layer two we see the application, in layer three we get the peripherals (printer, keyboard, mouse and joystick), one massive sandwich to check! In any of these interactions things can go wrong and a QA department needs to sift through it all. Of course even if all of that did work correctly we see the fourth layer which is the user him/herself, who then decides to dunk that layered sandwich in tea. Boy oh boy can they mess up their own system! No software can truly prepare for that!

Yet in all this QA needs to have high standards, which are proven when we see the third option in all this. Options one and two are an entirely different mess! It is for the outsider often impossible to tell what on earth happened. I had the inside scoop on an event where something was marketed ready, yet the program was nowhere near that. Deadlines for stakeholders had to be met and some figured that a patch afterwards via the BBS systems would do the trick. So basically a flawed product went to the shops. I remember those days, that was long before any level of fast internet, I was a trendsetter in those days by owning a 64Kb modem, yes I was a speed demon in those days! LOL!

You see, legally the consumer is in a messy situation, product liability laws are not that strong, unless health and lives are placed in peril, beyond that, you would think that these consumers are protected when it involved fraud, yet, when we consider that part of fraud is ‘deception intended to result in financial or personal gain’, we see any case go south really fast when the defence becomes, ‘the consumer was offered a refund’ and ‘Your honour, our costs are massive! We are doing everything to aid the consumers, offering them a refund immediately’ and we see any fraud case go south. Consider part of this with the ruling ‘intentional perversion of truth’, the keyword ‘intentional’ can usually be swayed too easily, faltering the case of fraud. But in the core, getting people to sign on in the first weeks, getting that revenue on their boards can mean the survival of such a company, so some accept the costs for what happens to remain on the game board.

The other situation is where the Quality Assurance (QA) department messed up. Here is the kicker, for the outsider to tell which scenario played is impossible, without working at a place, it is an impossible task to tell, one can make estimated guesses, but that is as good as it goes. For example, Ubisoft had a net profit on -66 million in 2013, they fell from grace in 2008 from $32 to $3.80 per share, that’s a not too healthy drop of 90%. The interesting part here is that when we look at their games, we see over those terms Prince of Persia, the language coaches on DS, which was novel (especially Japanese), Assassin’s Creed II, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction and a few more. This is the interesting part, here we see a few excellent games, a Prince of Persia that would bring back to life a forgotten franchise, Assassin’s Creed II, which was so far above the original that it mesmerised a massive player population, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, which upped the ante of Prince of Persia by a lot and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, which gave us even more challenges. Yet, these good games could not hinder the fact that Ubisoft had produced so many games over that time, many of them far below great that it impacted their stock. Is their value back to $16 because of their games? So what about Assassins Creed: Unity? Is stock the reason for the lacking game. I personally would state no! I think lacking games drop the stock. Yet, this is an emotional response, because stock is driven by demands and rejections, as great games are made, people want a shae of that rabid bunny, if the games are nowhere near, the stock gets rejected. In this case it is about the games, because Ubisoft is gaming! This is also why the E3 is such a big deal and even though I was not impressed with their E3, ‘For Honor’ clearly shows that Ubisoft has some gems in their arsenal, or should that be ‘had’? For Honor is a new and likely high in demand game, the presentation was extremely well received. I am not much for those types of games, but I also looked with anticipation of a lovely challenge. The issue here remains, it is online, so timing and decent players are required to make this a good experience. Yet beyond that new title, I would see it as a collection of predictable that have become indistinguishable from their other titles. Sequels sharing bits from other sequels with an interchangeable codebase. With too many triggered scripts. We remain with a blurred sense of gaming. I stated it a few years ago, by adding too many prince of Persia moments into Assassins Creed, we end up not playing Assassins Creed, if I wanted that, I would have bought Prince of Persia! So why these games?

Well, there is of course method to my madness (and my madness is purely methodical). You see, Assassins Creed 2 and Splinter Cell: Conviction were amazing achievements. I can still play these two today and have loads of fun. They had set a standard, even though Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood was a step up, certain flaws were never dealt with, flaws that became part of the engine for 5 iterations of the game. You see that in the second premise, I went from new game to iteration? That part matters too! With the Splinter Cell series we went from Conviction to Blacklist. Again, it was a step forwards, but now we get the issue that QA messed up buy not properly testing the re-playability part of the game, leaving players in a lurch, making the game a mess if I wanted to play a ‘NewGame+’, it is a little thing, with a far reaching consequences. What was great became good, a step forward, hindered by one and a half steps back., which is the faltering part. Ubisoft needed a QA department with teeth, as I see it, they did not have one, or Marketing got involved. There is in all honesty no way to tell how that came to pass.

Yet, this is not about Ubisoft, because Rocksteady Studios outdid it all with Batman: Arkham Knight, making Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment extremely unhappy as I see it. A game that should be heralded as a new legendary release got a 50% rating by Steam and 70% by Gamespot, these are not good numbers, they are ratings that resemble coffin nails. Not a good thing at all. In my view, this is a massive fail by their QA department. However, when we accept the statement from Kotaku.com, we get “The moment I’m inside the batmobile, it’s not surprising to see it dip to 15 frames-per-second“, did QA really not see that? So is it Marketing or is it QA? No matter what answer I give here, it is pure speculation, I have no facts, just personal insight from 30 years of gaming. No matter where it lies, QA should not have signed off on it, not at such drops of quality. Which gets us back to the non-liability of these firms. ‘Res Ipsa Loquitur’, or in slightly more English “the thing speaks for itself“, The plaintiff can create a presumption of negligence by the defendant by proving that the harm would not ordinarily have occurred without negligence. Yet, what harm? The only harm the game has is spending funds which are refundable, the only harm there is for the maker of the game. So, there is no case, what is the case is that until these firms properly invest into QA, we get to go through buying and returning a lot more. Yet, these companies realise and they take a chance that the gamers (which tends to be a loyal lot) in that they hold on to the game and just download the patch. So basically, the first hour gamers become the sponsors for the development of an unfinished game. That is how I personally see it.

In my view, the game suffered, what could have been great will soon be forgotten. Yet, what happens when it is not a videogame? What happens when it is not a game, what happens when it is business software? you see the Donoghue v Stevenson case gives us that a maker can be held responsible for personal injury or damage to property, yet, what happens when neither is the case?

It is a very old UK case in Torts, where a Mrs Donoghue was drinking a bottle of ginger beer in a café in Paisley. A dead snail was in the bottle and because of that she fell ill, and she sued the ginger beer manufacturer, Mr Stevenson. The House of Lords held that the manufacturer owed a duty of care to her, which was breached, because it was reasonably foreseeable that failure to ensure the product’s safety would lead to harm of consumers. This is a 1932 case that is still the key case of torts and personal harm involving negligence. Yet, with video games there is no visible harm, there is only indirect harm, but the victims there have little say in this as the direct victim is offered a refund, the competitor missing out on revenue has no case. So as revenue is neither injury nor damage to property. Now we get the issue that if the buyer buys goods which are defective, he or she can only have a claim under contract of sale against the retailer. If the retailer is insolvent, no further claims will be possible. So, with Arkham Knight, when 2500 copies are returned, a large shop will not go insolvent, you get the idea, when the shop needs to close the doors, you are left out of money.

Here we get the crux, a maker of a game/program has pushed an inferior product to market. It will offer compensation, yet if the shop closes (that is a massively big if), the buyer is out in the cold. Now, the chance of this ever happening is too unrealistically small, but the need to set rules of quality, setting the need of standards is now becoming increasingly important. With games they are the most visible, but consider a corporation now pushing a day one product to get enough revenue to tailor a patch which the customer needs to download. An intentional path to stay afloat, to buy time. Where do you stand, when you got pushed to solution 2 as solution 1 is a month away, only to discover the flaw in the program, which gets freely adjusted in Week 23, so 22 weeks without a solution, this situation also hindering the sale of solution 1, which was fine from day one onwards.

Not only is a much better QA required, the consumer should be receiving much stronger protection against these events. That could just be me.

Now to the real issue connected to this. Assassins Creed: Unity became a really bad joke last year,

It went so far as Ubisoft offering a free game because (source: Express) “UBISOFT have confirmed some Xbox One fans who have previously applied patch 3 for Assassin’s Creed: Unity are now being hit by a 40GB download when trying to use the latest title update”. 40GB is massive, that comes down to 10 DVD Movies, it is well over 10% of the entire hard drive space, this gives us the image that one game has clear impact on the total space of the console. Also be mindful of the term ‘patch 3’, which implies that patch one and two had been applied, so is there clarity on the reasonable assumption that there is an issue with both release and QA here? In my view, delayed in addition or not, the game should never have been released to begin with.

Don’t get me wrong, with the new AAA games, the chance of a patch becomes larger and larger. You see QA can only get us to a certain distance and an issue on a console is a lot less likely than an issue on your PC (with all kinds of hardware combinations), yet the amount of fixes as shown here is way off the wall. Now we see a similar thing happening to the PC edition of Arkham knight. Warner Brothers have decided to call back the game, all sales have stopped at present. However, the issues we see on gottabemobile.com are “Warner Brothers’ forums are filled with complaints about the game including Error CE-34878-0 issues on the PS4, various issues with the Batmobile including this one on Xbox One, issues with cut scenes, Harley Quinn DLC problems on the PS4, Batman season pass problems, problems launching the game, problems with the game’s well-known Detective Mode, missing Flashpoint skin, problems with missions, problems saving the game, and more”.

Now we get the question, was this properly QA-ed? Was a proper quality test made, because the size and nature of the issues, as reported give out a negative testing vibe, which I consider to be extremely negligent! As such we must wonder, should such levels of non-functionality be allowed. Can the law allow the release of a product that causes, as alleged ‘no harm has been caused’, an industry, hoping on the users to wait quietly as a game gets finished on the consumers costs.

Now that the Nextgen consoles are all set out to be downloaded in the night, how long until games start tasking the game of ‘customer expectations’ and release a 90% game? How long until corporations will work on a business model that relies on consumer sponsoring whilst they contract even better profits. We also need to be careful, patches will always be a factor, I have no issue with that, and the list of games that needing massive patches keeps on growing, AC: Unity, GTA-V, Arkham Knight, Destiny, and the list goes on a little longer. I am only mentioning the patches over 3GB (one is well over 6Gb) and in this light Destiny gets a small pass as that game is all about multiplayer, which is a dimension of errors all on its own.  The Elder Scrolls Online wins this year with a 16Gb patch, again, all about online play, but overall the gaming industry seems to adapt the bad traits of Microsoft, which is definitely not a good idea.

For now we seem to accept it, especially as the Nextgen systems are relatively new, but that feeling will change sooner rather than later and at that point someone official needs to step in, which might end up being a lot more official that the game makers bargained for, especially as games outside of the US can be up to 70% more expensive, at that point we are entitled to some proper consumer protection, against these levels of negligence, levels that currently only exist on a limited scope.

 

 

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