Tag Archives: Subnautica

To emphasize ‘flawed’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now consider the two headlines:

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

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

 

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After the E3

I tend to not take Kotaku as a source (not for any negative reason), yet they have been hammering the nail on the head, even as they did not say it.  Their part ‘the losers’ starts with an image of the Xbox with the text ‘I witnessed the most powerful console ever‘, yes, hiding behind a technical detail whilst there is no proper space to store it is always a bad idea and I was happy to call the Microsoft presence literally a ‘waste of space‘ in my previous E3 article, so far I stand by it. Consider that the most powerful console has only 50% of storage space compared to a MacBook pro, which cannot do that level of gaming. Consider (taken Seagate 2.5″ drives as an example). The shift from 1TB to 2TB is $30, the shift from 2TB to 3TB is an additional $60. I do acknowledge that the 3TB drive is 8mm thicker, yet the dimensions of the 1TB and 2TB are identical, so twice the size for a mere $30 more, this is what makes the Xbox a joke. Sony might do the same, yet with Sony, you get the run on how to change it and there are good guides to show how to replace the hard drive. Plenty of gamers shelled out the additional $120 to get the space, with Microsoft it is not an option.

Now for the hardware, the Switch showed what fun was like and it has the games and more coming to keep us all happy. Both Sony and Microsoft failed us a little there. Now Sony was more about games, which is good and they just released the PS4pro, so this is not an issue, whilst the way they did it shows long term commitment, which is what gamers like. Now we see a changing market with any PS4 next to a Nintendo switch and it is a good day for gaming. Another visible event is that some of the better Xbox One exclusives are now making their way to Sony, so whilst the Sony exclusives grow, the Xbox exclusives list is starting to shrink. In addition, although not confirmed, the consoles Sony vs Microsoft was at 2:1 in 2015, some sources now give this a 6:1 setting. The PS4 has gone through the roof, with sales now surpassing 60 million consoles, meaning that they have surpassed the PS3 and could surpass the PS2 sales by 2018. I think it is a stretch, but part of me hopes so. Part of me can go towards Steve Ballmer with an ‘I told you so‘ state of mind. The weird think is that neither Mattrick nor Ballmer are stupid, they are decently intelligent and the conclusions I got to did not take a rocket scientist, which beckons who is drawing their marching orders and why are they on some track to force people to push data towards the Azure cloud? Why endanger your console market in this way?

By the way, pretty much NONE of the E3 attending press took a decent look at that, even the Guardian avoided the storage issue, which is a question for another day.

The only questionable part in it was the Bethesda Creation club. I think that it is not just about making money. The developer gets a share (as I understood it), so those with really good mods could stand to make $1-2 per quality mod. Now, I am not much of a mod fan, but there are a few really good ones and I would not begrudge the maker those $2 if need be. It would in addition up the ante for mod creators to become even better, which is not a bad thing. Finally, in some respects, a game like Fallout 3 (PC) went from awesome to beyond legendary, just because of some mods. Now, it might not be for all and that is fair enough, yet if your perception of a 90% game becomes a 98% game through the additional $2-$4 because of 1-2 mods, is that such a bad thing? It is up to the gamer to decide that, but I believe that there is some validity in the option. The validity is for them to come with it and for us to embrace those professional mods, or to ignore them. It should not impact the foundation (the original game) you bought.

In the end Nintendo did what it always does, it did something different, which is why I did not care about the WiiU and the failure I personally see it to be, from those ashes came the Switch and it rocks, going to the edge can get you big failures and massive hits, and the Switch could become their greatest hit yet, good for Nintendo! Yet, in fairness, there are media that really do not agree with me and that is fine. International Business Times was all but creating a shrine in the honour of the Xbox One X. The BBC is on my team when it comes to the Nintendo. They raised the issue that mattered for Nintendo; can the 100M units of Wii be equalled? I believe so! Now the Wii was backward compatible with the GameCube, which was my reason for getting it on day one, beyond that the Wii was a nice machine, yet it lacked a decent array of games. They let me down a little there. The Switch is already surpassing the game titles in the first year, compared to Wii 3 years, so they have that in the bag. Nintendo has in equal measure a few new IP options which can really make the Switch a phenomenal success. So from those points of view, the option of surpassing the 100M consoles seems like an easy mark. Even if the economy does not take a turn for the better, choosing between a Switch at $450 without 4K beats the Xbox One X at $500 with 4K gaming by close to 300%. So by the end of 2018 the console offset ‘Sony:Nintendo:Microsoft’ could end up being ‘13:9:2’. This would show Microsoft on how they truly bet on the wrong marketing horses. So I admit, it is a speculative prediction, yet the sales numbers are not that far off and my expected Nintendo growth is not unrealistic. Now, in the off season, the Switch is adding roughly a million users per month. I expect that the European summer, the upcoming games and upcoming festivity days could set it to a total of 10 million by the end of the year. If the economy kicks off a little stronger, it could go to 12 million, which means that in one year the Switch will equal the total Xbox One systems in the field. As more games come to switch, the added active users will fuel growth even stronger. Good games and word of mouth tends to do that, don’t take my word for it, and just look at the PS2 and PS4.

Yet, what more can we expect with the E3 behind us? Both the critics and people gave Super Mario Odyssey best of show, which fuels growth even more and it won by a substantial margin. Assassins Creed Origin did not win on any console or PC, they all had a different winner which was nice to see. Super Mario Odyssey also became best platformer, which is not really that big a surprise and again There was no win for Assassins Creed, which when we consider the stages of completion of the different games not too bad a negative. Again Nintendo got the best title for Strategy game. In this case ‘Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle‘, so as the laurels are handed to Nintendo in several ways. IGN wasn’t the only one with a voice, Gamesradar saw another part my way, they to just announced Ubisoft as the winner of 2017. It was a fair call and two brand new IP’s definitely boosts the score for Ubisoft. Gamesradar also shows one element the others did not, the lack of Indie developers. In regards to the PlayStation and the fact that this month Elite Dangerous will make it to PS4 is actually a big thing, it is one of the three top space games and now on PS4. The second is the remastered RPG original System Shock. Nightdrive Studios has enhanced a true original and so far has been able to capture the original suspense that System Shock brought us. The third one is unconfirmed from sources not that reliable, yet if true, Unknown Worlds with their open world RPG Subnautica will make waves. I reckon that the last two might bring additional hype to the Switch if they ever adapt those two for Switch. Games radar concurs; Nintendo is a winner, Xbox a loser. It is a harsh world for Microsoft and they might want to seriously consider in 2017 what their intent truly is, but as stated now the 4K and ‘strongest console ever‘ marketing gets them some media, yet in the end they poisoned their own customer base.

I think in the end it was a great E3, partially because Ubisoft and Nintendo amazed me with actual new stuff, which is what gets any gamer to the station ;-). I feel less negative about Bethesda than some of the ‘professional’ critics. Not sure why so negative as Bethesda delivered plenty, just some of their focus is VR, which might make them the legendary winner next year. In addition their new power puncher Prey was released a month before the E3, so there is that to consider. Finally there are more DLC’s coming for those games many love, so overall, we should not be too grumpy towards Bethesda.

So as the dust settles, we now get to wait another year for the next presentation of marketed hype by all the players. I for one will be very interested to see my own projection of Nintendo upcoming future. They have 5 optional new IP’s at their back and call and if they get 3 up and running, the run for Switch will grow more than even I predict which would be nice too. In the end, I am happy that the Nintendo message ‘it is about fun‘ that got through stronger than the need for 4K, which gives hope for gamers all over the world. For me personally, the moment it is a financial option, the Switch come in, perhaps a trade for my Xbox? I do hope that Nintendo will give us Pikmin, and Metroid Prime one and two, because those are the games I miss, and I will happily buy them again for the Switch, good gaming is just that, more good!

 

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Awaiting next week

Whatever happens, will happen. You see, the E3 is on next week and in this it will be the week of gamers. We will see presentations from the big makers and they will either wow or BS us. The interesting part is that this is the one week in the year where we either do not care or we cannot tell the difference. You could tell a little better if you are actually there, but that is not for all to do, unless you live in California that is.

The big players will give us on Saturday the 10th the EA press conference, the day after it will be for Microsoft and Bethesda to ‘wow’ its public. Monday will be Ubisoft and Sony, followed that day after by Nintendo and several small presentations with two unannounced AAA games. There is a chance that the new GTA expansion Gunrunners will take one of them. Tuesday till Thursday, from 19:30 (LA time), we will get the Giant Bomb Live (whatever that is). During those days we will get additional presentations some like Shadow of War (Shadow of Mordor 2) is set, and we will see demonstrations of games (titles not given, other than the platform they are on) and the rest is about seeing the stands and watching what wealthy gamers can enjoy in person. It is the chaos all gamers desire. There are already games in place, games by marketeers. You see Ubisoft is in a difficult position. When we see: ‘New Assassin’s Creed: Origins Leak Shows Main Character, Pyramid, And Bonus Content‘ we see a title that implies that either the issue of Ubisoft not knowing how to deal with security, which is a problem. Or, what is more likely is that its marketing department is dipping its toes in the water trying to see the feedback. The second is more likely as this is pretty much the last chance Ubisoft has to recapture the audience it lost from this franchise and that is a large audience. The fact that it is safer nowadays to just wait 8 weeks and buy the limited editions with 50% discount gives you the idea of their loss. In the old days those boxes would be sold out even before the first day of release was even close to happening, Ubisoft lost that much. The EA presentation is a hard one. When we consider what is confirmed, than they do have an issue, however, they might have surprises for us, which most tend to have. For EA it is a hard one, because they are kicking off E3 2017. Bethesda did such an amazing overwhelming job last year that EA is in a tough position, I am not writing them off, but until we see a gossip part of something truly amazing, EA might not rock-da-house so to speak. Bethesda comes the next day with several titles that will capture the minds of gamers. Several of them are all about shooting; at least one will be about shooting, stabbing and killing Nazi’s, so Blazkowitz is expected to be nearby. The Evil within 2 is announced through rumour, which is a nice surprise. After giving us a different kind of nightmare a few years ago, we will get to see what will make us fear what is under the bed this year. In addition Elder Scrolls online players will get to see more, so there is that to look forward to. The latest rumour is that there is a small chance that we will get a first glimpse of the new Elder Scrolls game, and a smaller chance that a tease for the next Fallout will hit our eyes in roughly 3 days 4 hours and a few minutes. We got a fistful of teaser last year with the upcoming god of War last year from Sony. The title is still not out, so we should expect to see more of that game, hopefully updated with an actual date of release. For the PS4pro fans, we should be hopeful to see David Braben show off the PS4 edition of Elite Dangerous, as this version is out on June 27th, which is less than 2 weeks after the E3. This E3 will be a lot more about DLC’s, so the Blizzard fans will get to see loads of upcoming stuff. The list of people awaiting the Diablo 3 addition is larger than the LA White pages, so this is something we hope to see the official release date on. Another reason to seek YouTube on the E3 events is to see the floors. When you realise that the booths of Ubisoft, Bethesda, Microsoft and Activision are the size of a department store, you know you will get to see unique things that the non-visitors will envy you for; especially, when you start forwarding the ‘selfies’ with a larger than life Butcher (Evil within, 2013). This is just one of several halls described, so when I say that the E3 is the gamers place to be, I am understating the need to be there by a fair amount. It gets even wilder when you realise that in another hall, the Sony stand is larger than the Bethesda and Microsoft combined, so we will very likely get to see a few more things regarding all things PS4pro.

In the end, do not just take my word, find the E3 events and watch the presentations. Those will show you for one what you missed out on and it will also be a first step in creating your upcoming Christmas wish list. So far the last three years have shown me what was coming and how much I was unaware of the games I really wanted. One presentation is unknown to be there, but the Subnautica early release on Xbox One was overwhelming. Not just as a game, but as the game grew and as we got more and more, the game will become an absolute must on the PS4, which is expected to be released in September 2017. Oh, and the E3 is not just software, hardware players like NVidia will also be present, so any new hardware development for PC graphics will be visible too.

So as we are awaiting the arrival of next week, for those who are a little over the bulk promises from political parties, the escalations in France and Germany’s move from Turkey, there is the option to just get into gaming and see where that leaves your sanity. In addition, as you get deeper into Call of Duty, you might find yourself more and more imagining these Nazi’s to be ISIS fighters; there is no war like the present I say. So as I leave Activision with the idea of a free DLC, so that we can practice. I also leave you with the comment of Josh Hutcherson in Red Dawn, where he states: “Dude, we are living Call of Duty and it sucks!

That is to make you aware of the difference between gaming in a lazy chair and an actual theatre of war. Because as we seek a little escapism from reality, which is good for the soul at times. We should not forget that the deadly reality is on several doorsteps; in addition, the implied changes I suggested yesterday were partially implemented by France less than 24 hours later. What were the chances of me predicting that? I offer the thought that this was not a game and the changes required in Europe seem to be adopted in France, which is good as they lack a level of security that the UK has due to the fact that it is an island. In addition, the BBC (at http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-40195212) gives us more on Youssef Zaghba and more important, the fact that Italy placed Youssef on the SIS2 list, which now beckons the call on how Youssef actually entered the UK. If it was though the Netherlands (Ferry) or the smaller airfields like Rotterdam or Eindhoven, the question becomes how diligent are these checks? There are a few unknowns, but it seems that within Schengen, certain unchecked issues are now an actual security concern. So as we see certain implied accusations, we need to wonder whether Youssef was on SIS2, and if so when was he added?

These are all issues awaiting us for next week, one is all about recreation, one is about anything but recreations and the rest falls in the middle. We can argue, or have a conversation how the terror curve is an inverted recreation curve, yet in all this; the one element that I raised yesterday is now coming to the forefront. I mentioned that we need to think in new ways, we need a new approach to tackle intelligence solutions. The one part they all ignore, or philosophise around it, is that the better game designers have been developing at the edge of hardware possibilities and software creativity for years, a few literally for decades. It is not the worst idea for some of the larger players in the field of security find a way to have a serious conversation with some developers in regards to how creative solutions in data parsing could be found. Some of the larger developers have been doing just that for a decade or more.

As I stated, and I stand by that ‘we need to stop looking in the same direction and regard any box to be obsolete, we need to start being creative to the application of data and technology‘, it is that approach that got me to solve the NHS IT issue. The foundation took a mere hour to ‘solve’.

To those doubting me (always a valid option), I now have a few dozen I told you so articles where what I stated and those following learned came with a difference of weeks, not hours. So I reckon I have made my point a few times. When it comes to the upcoming elections, my larger fear is that Corbyn succeeds by swaying the people to dive the UK in a deeper debt, one that it cannot overcome for decades, it leaves the UK too vulnerable. So consider your choice, and also consider the bleeding hearts of Amnesty International. As they proclaim on loss of rights in Paris, they seem to leave the people in the dark on the dangers that France has faced a few times and how these dangers for now persist. There is a time and a place for everything, and for the most I have never opposed peaceful protests, yet these tend to escalate fast, and it only takes a few people to escalate it beyond proportions. In a time when a man attacking people with a hammer near Notre Dame is just another moment of extremism, is the question, should we protest now, at a time when groups get targeted by extremists? There is nothing stopping them to do this online, via Facebook or Twitter. As stated, it is not about the protest it is about the timing in the light of events as they are happening in Europe. Perhaps my thoughts are wrong on this, and you are welcome to oppose that. Yet with the amount of attacks, with the dangers as the flood of extremists is not known, do you want to be the person starting a peaceful protest, only to guide those who agree to a dangerous life threatening situation?

I do not proclaim to be wise enough to have the answer here; I am merely going on common sense here. So as we get towards and through next week. Perhaps at that point will the information be shown that I was right or wrong? I am happy to be wrong, I am less happy that me, myself and I setting the wrong stage costing the lives of others. That is fair too, is it not?

So as we see the throne of games evolve over the next week on the stages of politics, policies and PlayStation, we need to try and identify, what is marketing and what is BS marketing. The difference will impact the lives of many. It is easy to shrug it off when it is a $100 video game; it is less entertaining when it causes 15 years of austerity. I’ll let you decide on how fair that is, when in doubt, see austerity in action by watching the news on Greece!

 

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Slamming the Game makers

There are many games that get released, there have been titans that we still yearn for and even as several games are upcoming or just now released, there is no denying that the gaming community at large have been anticipating the arrival of Mass Effect. YouTube is getting swamped by groups of people, some are utter idiots, trying to get traction in viewers, so the least said about them the better, some have outspoken opinions on the game, which is fair enough and some of those videos are actually decently insightful and some give us a view, but they do not give the game away. One of these very good reviewers is JV2017gameplay. In that regard, the video (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGdGEqYYJjA), gives us a backdrop on the game in relation to the original trilogy. The video is well worth viewing. Seeing this before the game is launched is a very good idea, yet not essential. We get to see some of what we will see in the game, yet we are told explicitly, the video holds no spoilers, which is really good, because I like my surprises to come from the game, not from someone’s video. I have to admit that there were two issues in the story shown, but there could be a very good explanation. This movie and one other (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7hs5cu43Ck), which is about exploration show one element in absolute clarity. That is the fact that Mass Effect Andromeda is clearly arriving 5 years after the previous game for a very good reason. This game shows to be a massive leap forward from the last two games. There is a level of familiarity when we see the interfaces, so those whomever played it before is likely to get a quick handle on the game play. Two videos that show us that Bioware has taken the game to a new level, one that seems to be trumping the sum of both Mass Effect 2 and 3.

I am not going too much on the videos, you will just have to watch them, which is a good idea if you are serious about getting this game. What is important to me is that this game is one of the earlier games that is upgraded so that you could enjoy the maximum that either the PS4pro of Xbox 1s has to offer. So if you have the right TV, you would be able to enjoy this game in 4K resolution, which is great. My issue (in the positive) is that Bioware shows us, not unlike Bethesda did in recent past, that good games do not get released on an annual bases. I truly hope that Yves Guillemot learns his lesson from this. A second lesson that I hope he will learn, is that a game that has all the elements of different games, will not add up to be an excellent game at all.

Now, some will see this as my slamming Yves Guillemot, yet I disagree, although, if Yves proclaims to not agree with this assessment, he might not be 100% incorrect #JustSaying. It is my view on the creation of mediocrity. Yet, are all bad reviews correct? Here I feel that more than one person has not been fair against all things Ubisoft, which needs to be stated as well. You see I do disagree with the vision that James Marvin gives us on how adaptations of movies from films seem to consistently flop, this with the reference to the Assassin’s Creed film. What constitutes a flop? You see with a Production Budget: $125 million, a movie making $238,396,337 is in my view a success. I give $125 and I get back $238 that is 90% profit! With banks giving you 5% if you are lucky, that result constitutes a good day’s work. I will say that I did not consider this a great movie, yet it is not a bad one either. Anyone who saw the remake of Point break 2015 will happily agree with me. The AC movie had a good cast, the cinematography is actually a little overwhelming at times, but the filming shows to be slightly too chaotic and too many jumps to Michael Fassbender in virtual device mode, which is pretty much it. As it was a financial success blaming Justin Kurzel is equally unfounded, but here is part of the issue, it is the vision that was given. I think that the error was to some extent as stated earlier, not the greatest visions, making it less a success than it might have been.

This now reflects back to Mass Effect, because the game has one thing as it went from game 3 to game 4, it shows vision, the eternal platinum trump card that makes a game an instant classic and the 90%+ success rating that really good games get.

What should overwhelm you are the ‘upgrades’ that Mass Effect offers. Looking through windows showing the actual space where you are, which is a little overwhelming. Like the AC series, the voices have been taken well care of with Clancy Brown is the voice of ‘your’ father, an actor that the younger player will recognise as Mr Krabs (a SpongeBob square pants production). Others might recognise him from Cowboys and Aliens and the classic sergeant Zim from Starship Troopers. You, as the player will be voiced by either the stunning model Fryda Wolff, who weirdly enough has not seen too much camera on TV or the big screen (hinting towards Michael Fassbender here for his next production), but has been active in games like Civilisation, Final Fantasy 13, Call of Duty, Fallout 4, XCom 2 and the Technomancer, and if you are playing the male character by Tom Taylorson who is actually new to this level of work. Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones, the Tudors), Gary Carr (Downton Abbey) and several others. Oh, and to be fair, Assassins Creed 2 had no lack of actors and actresses either. They gave us Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Alex Ivanovici (X-men, Mirror Mirror), Lita Tresierra, who sadly passed away (the Factory), Carlos Ferro (Dominic, Gears of Wars series). So this is what both sides took pride and effort in and there has never been anything but the highest praise for both game makers. Also it is the graphical side that was never a flaw, you only need to look at Assassins Creed Black Flag (which has other issues), to see what the Ubisoft graphical department can do when they set their mind to it, they really got the sense of the Caribbean right, it almost felt like I was actually there in that time, or so I would believe it to look like.

Getting back to Mass Effect 4, the entire game as shown so far seems to be nothing less than Mass Effect 2 on steroids. The exploration, the graphics and large land masses, the fact that a map has several fast travel points give rise to the facts that the planets are a fair bit larger than ever before. This will be the game for anyone who loved the original trilogy, anyone who has a need to shoot things and for those with a reverence to role playing games. Now, as this game is not out yet for another 7.61 days (roughly) we have no idea on the amount of hours of game play that this game brings, the actual amount of planets you can land on and explore and so on. In addition, the Mass Effect series, like some others have always lend their design for additions (DLC’s) and season passes, so I wonder if more would come. I cannot state whether this would come with the overwhelming value that the Fallout 4 season pass gave us, but we can hope, can we not?

The power of games is at times great to experience, especially when we see a game like Mass Effect Andromeda. True, several good games have been released, but when we focus on the 90%+ ratings, over the last 12 months gives us Nioh, Dark Souls 3, Dishonored 2, Deus Ex: Mankind divided and Overwatch. 5 games over the last 12 months (Witcher 3 GOTY edition is also making the cut, but the original was released in 2015, which is why I omitted it). So as you can see 5 (or 6) great games a year. Now, there will always be games that did not make it to the 90% level, but we still want to play them (sport games), those games are niche games, but consider how many games you play per year and how many of them were in that 90% plus range? Now consider Horizon Zero Dawn from Guerilla games, which is one of the newer players on the block (2000), Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 (2002), which is CI Games first attempt to produce an AAA game, or Elite: Dangerous, who is now entering the PlayStation 4 field, a game originally made on a BBC Micro B in 1984 (a machine with 32Kb RAM). Last I want to mention Subnautica by Unknown Worlds Entertainment, which is a company that has 20 employees. Its founder Charlie Cleveland shows what vision can bring, in his case an ‘open’ world survival game where you are adrift on an ocean after crashlanding on a water planet. What happens after that is up to you, so as the radio tells you (when you get it fixed) that you can wait 99,999 hours, which amounts to 11.4 years, or make a life for yourself. This starts a very different game which you need to see to believe. I hope that the PlayStation people get to experience it as well, because the game will bring you a hundred hours or more of challenges, entertainment and visual wonder. This is visionary on a new level! There are a few other surprises in this game. You have not lived until you tried to get anywhere in this game in hardcore mode (1 life). In this I would slam both Ubisoft and Electronic Arts. I honestly cannot state whether it is complacency or what I would call an adherence to mediocrity. The two makers who bedazzled us with greatness have been regarded as below par too often for a little too long. This visibility comes out even stronger as we see how great Mass Effect 4 could be (Electronic Arts) and Ubisoft who basically has not produced a 90%+ game since Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (2013). When did spreadsheets overrule the need for excellence? When we all expected that Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands would give back some confidence in Ubisoft, we see reviews that hardly make 80%, which is a really bad thing for Ubisoft. When I see the review comment ‘Writing is terrible and it’s riddled with bugs, but there’s fun to be had with friends‘, I wonder whether the second part was given there to be soft to make sure that Yves Guillemot would not cry too loud. Yet the truth we also see is “Of all the publishers out there, it’s Ubisoft that has most affectionately embraced the open world” should have been the driving force that could have given Ubisoft a super seller (a slice of Skyrim anyone?), yet the reviews imply that it is not to be. In addition the reviewer (Sam White) shows the lesson I tried to impart on Ubisoft more than once “that is when you realise that Ubisoft has taken collectibles too far“, a lesson they should have learned before Assassins Creed Unity was released.

When smaller places like Unknown Worlds Entertainment and Hello Games surpass you with each less than 25 staff members, you need to seriously wake up. I am actually surprised that Ubisoft Still exists, because to be honest, they should have imploded with no funds left by 2015 (so you see, I can be wrong too!). The question is how such places stay afloat. Marketing only make up for so much, in the end it is the product that matters!

The question is where do gamers go to next? In all this, I too need to keep an open mind. I have a specific desire for games and even as I admire Dark Souls 3, I know I will never actually finish it. I am not that great a slasher. I am all for stealth games, which is why Styx was such an amazing experience and challenge, so as we are about to get its sequel, I too join a group who will accept a lower than 90% game (which shows that there is more than just high ratings). However, we do know that Ubisoft has had its successes in that genre too: Blacklist and Conviction are both 90% games and they delivered (apart from one annoying issue in blacklist) and I cannot wait for a new instalment of that series. Here too we see that when we look deeper that there are lines of games that could result in new 90% versions, not just because the player group is large enough, but because developers like CI Games are showing that there is interest in getting a stealth game that is a serious challenge (Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3). Will this statement remain true if the reviews scores are barely making the 80% grade? I believe so, I believe that quality games will always find a home and I also believe that the proper attention will drive new players, especially if the reviews and scores correctly reflect the quality of the game. This is what I meant again and again when I stated towards Ubisoft: ‘A game that is based on a matrix on how to not make a bad game, will reflect that and not be a bad game. Yet in that same setting it will also never become a truly great game‘, Mafia III, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Watch Dogs 2 have proven me correct. On the opposition, those who made it (like Witcher 3 and its additions), excellence is more than merely its own reward, it creates a following and it sets a milestone for others to strive for.

In the same way that I see stealth games, I see that ‘open’ world games like the ones Bethesda produces, gives us options and replayable versions unlike most other games, which now give rise to the question why can’t others get there? Oblivion (2006), Fallout 3 (2008), Fallout: New Vegas (2010), Skyrim (2011) and Fallout 4, all of them 90%+ games. With two of them given a 100% score by more than one reviewer; that is what makes them essential games to own (for those not hating RPG games). I think we can agree that there is a fairly sized group of people who are not into RPG’s and that will always be fair enough. In that same view, I am not, and am unlikely to ever become a GTA fan. Yet the RPG group is growing, so I wonder where these two players go. You see, living on Mass Effect alone will not aid EA in its growth, who actually was one of the innovative distributors of one of the pioneers in this field (the Ultima series), so why not seek in those revamps? In that same light Wing Commander and Privateer brought the light of space flight, now they will have to compete, but our love for these games have (for the most) not diminished, so where is the IP on that? Eidos gave us Soul Reaver a game that could be rebranded in something awesome (even though the originals were actually pretty good). Yet, here I go on in the remake directions. What I hope is that these two once great development houses will seek visionaries to give us the next batch of (hopefully new) true visionary game play. If crowd funding took only 9 days to get the minimum requirement to get the relaunch of System Shock started, do you really think that RPG and tactical games are on the way out? No, most gamers are looking towards the thrills we once had and some are looking for that next new original challenge. Perhaps the makers need to start looking into the Comic book dimension. Marvel might be booked solid, but there is a league of comics that might never ever make the light of day outside of its own clique following. Even if we look at what has been tried before, an actual good Buffy video game would draw millions towards the shops. An actual good version would ensure large lines in front of a game retailer. The Darkness, what I considered to be a fine game (not great), but a good reflection of the comic style which I considered to be essential. Series like Witchblade (awesome artwork, yet awful TV series), or perhaps Michael Turner’s Fathom. You see, the ‘non-failure’ spreadsheet of Ubisoft might not allow for a game based on Fathom to be created, yet Subnautica seems to be proving them wrong at present. So as the elements of Fathom with ‘members of a race of aquatic humanoids called the Blue who possess the ability to control water‘ give rise to very interesting settings (as well of the majestic unknown that we call the seven seas). The idea of a game, open world or not (more like large levels) where we need to think in three dimensions when playing calls for quality gaming, if properly executed, we could see an entirely new level of game play one that does require next gen consoles and powerful PC’s. Consider that in 2015, the sales of comic books surpassed $1,000,000,000. Now also consider that the market size of comic books was estimated to be $280-$200 million market in 1998, and even though we have seen a decade of hard times, this market has never stopped growing from 1998 to 2016 (source: http://www.comichron.com). Is it such a leap to not seriously consider that market? And in this case, I am specifically taking DC Comics and Marvel out of the equation.

Visionaries are worth their weight in gold. So if EA and Ubisoft have any, then give them a 6′ stack of comic books and see what they can come up with. I reckon that these two players waste more money on some brainstorm lunch with BI executives, so that expense should be easy to justify. For me? If this results in them each producing at least two 90% plus game within 3 years, we all end up winning. Is that not a beautiful consideration?

 

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The end of diversity?

We are seeing a push in the gaming world, one that is coming before the next gen follow ups are here. Before the PS4Pro is maturing, before even the Xbox Scorpio is launched, we see new games that are told to be another style of Far Cry (Horizon Zero Dawn), another Dark Souls (Nioh), another Sniper Elite and in that same trend more sequels and more prequels. Yet, the overall game time seems to be dwindling down. Resident Evil 7 for all its amazing changes and story line, the game can be played in 10 hours, with speed gamers (not my cup of soup) doping it in less than 2 hours.

The same people who trolled No Mans Sky, pointing at absurd newscasts by writers trying to score exclusivity points and airing utter BS video’s with ‘scientific’ reviews whilst the game offered well over 50 hours (to get the 100% achievements) of gaming fun. That game gets trolled! In equal measure they all praise Tomb Raider, a game that could be completed in 12-15 hours. The quantity and quality of games falling more and more when considering the cost of games in dollars per gaming hour.

Now, let’s get back to the mention of Far Cry 3. For me a pivotal point as the first one on Xbox 360 was the only game I ever traded in because it was such a bad game. I had never done that before and I had not done that since. I steered clear of the second game and I only played the third one when it was offered on either PS Plus or Gold Live (I forgot which one), that is when I learned what an amazing game Far Cry three had turned out to be. So as Horizon Zero Dawn is ‘tainted’ to be some Far Cry/Tomb Raider game, some people get nervous. Are they doing it because of the references, or the lack of play that Tomb Raider offered?

Dan Silver of the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/20/horizon-zero-dawn-review-a-stunning-but-barely-evolved-rpg-contradiction) states “At times Horizon: Zero Dawn, the latest title from Dutch studio Guerrilla Games, those behind the Killzone series, feels uncannily like prophecy rather than escapism” as well as “in truth, there’s no real freedom here to play any role other than that proscribed by the game’s writers” and in conclusion “the RPG elements of Horizon: Zero Dawn are undercooked and ultimately unnecessary, or a sneaking acknowledgement that its action is so good players will want to jump straight into it – but both sentiments have a ring of truth“. The last one gives the part that matters with ‘both sentiments have a ring of truth‘, this is the can of worms I see.

Now let’s state this up front: ‘I have not played this game yet!

The game gets released in a week and what YouTube offered via Guerrilla Games shows a game that is well worth the time and also worth the effort. It is the image shown by Guerrilla games and there is no doubt that they are showing the more enticing parts. Yet the fight in the dark showed that there are more sides to the game, there is a mandatory intro part and there are parts that separate acts, so that you cannot take some ultimate short cut. All very acceptable in gaming.

In that same manner I saw some 15 things to learn before you buy Mass Effect 4 and I never bothered to watch the whole list. Speculation and listed ‘innovation’ from demos by people who are not involved with making the game. The only part that was interesting is that the launch was done between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, which is not surprising. At this point, in light of the Microsoft Console Unconsented Data Collections that are currently happening, I have switched off my Xbox One for now, which is annoying as I love Elite Dangerous and SubNautica, but fortunately one of them will be released on the PS4 in the coming quarter.

Yet, in the same air of originality I want to play the remastered version of System Shock (also coming to PS4). I feel that my drive is the ability to play this game in what is now possible. In that same trend System Shock 2 makes me equally anxious to replay what I loved so much. There is a list of games that give me this feeling, mainly because they were the originals. These games drove the existence of other new games. Games that were not bad, in some cases great, but it is the original game that drove us towards these games. Yet the creation of some games were uncanny, some made games with vision. Just like the maker FTL games who saw Asteroids and Moon lander and decided to create Oids (very addictive in those days). They were already famous with Dungeon Master and less known was the space explorer and trade game Sundogs, but overall they were true visionaries in games. So was the game the Sentinel on the Atari ST, which was later relaunched (with an awful cover story) on the PC. Cover story or not, they gave the game with the sentiment that the original had with the amazing bonus of the music made by John Carpenter, which was a bonus you should never deny yourself.

It is the decades of experience that made me design the story for a new single player Elder Scrolls (Elder Scrolls: Restoration), which is still on my desk. It gave me the idea for a New Ultima game, yet none of this is original. Our minds allow to create what we loved in the face of what we see now, which is re-engineering at best, it is not creation as such. It might still be the foundation of a great game, yet it is unlikely to become a great game without proper evolution of what initially was. It will appeal to the original lovers of the game with an updated following of those who never played it. Yet as greed comes around the corner, what we hoped to be great (example: Dungeon Keeper on the tablet), becomes a hoax that is soon after hated by all who loved the original. In that same fuel we might love a new Dungeon Keeper 2, a new Magic Carpet and a new Populous. In a similar trend, remaster these originals to Tablets could still work (when we kill the greed driving entities connected to them). Games like Flood were fun to play and the history of games is full of examples that people could and would enjoy if given the chance to play them again.

The issue of diversity rises again and again as we see the failure of true innovative gaming. Far Cry 4 gave us that as it tried to upgrade Far Cry 3 and as I personally saw it fail. In that Far Cry Primal is to some extent equally a non-winner. I phrase it like that because the game has good sides and it is not a bad game, yet the curve and growth allow for more escapism, whilst not giving true challenges in gaming. The issue with the ‘duplicated’ map is not even on my radar because anyone who could memorise a map like that has perhaps different issues to work with. The Ubisoft failure checklist is as I personally see it their biggest problem. In addition, there approach to include more and more might generalise gaming, yet I feel it, it is also reason these games lose more and more success ratings.

This is clearly in contrast with For Honor, which is reviewed as not a great single player game (some advised against getting the game for that reason), but at its core it is an overwhelmingly amazing multi player experience. So far having seen several video’s some at amazing resolutions, For Honor seems to deliver the best multi player action that 2017 is likely to offer. Which early in the year is quite the statement to make.

In all this Horizon New Dawn is still a force to be reckoned with. The biggest threshold now becomes, how many hours does the game offer and have they given thought to replayability. So as we replay Diablo 3 again and again with different characters, we see other games failing in that attempt, or succeed only to the smallest degree. Skyrim is perhaps the only one who offers decent levels of replayability, although we can all accept that the need to surpass level 70 to get to the legendary dragon achievement is still decently beyond ridiculous.

As we accept certain needs, values and requirements, there is always the danger that my view is the view only I would appreciate. In that I disagree, as I have heard similar views from others, some to a smaller extent and some to a larger extent. As I see the replayability option grow, I see that games like SubNautica will score high with the gaming community when the full game is launched on other platforms, seldom have I ever seen a game where the evolution of a game keeps on coming as it now enters the 4th wave of evolution and additions. It is to the same degree that nearly all RPG fans agree that the Witcher 3 is pretty much the most perfect RPG game ever created and as Project Red still has a future RPG (we hope) on the development table (read: Cyberpunk 2077), most gamers are looking forward to what 2018 and 2019 will bring.

So if some places see the light by opening their eyes, we hope that a specific place (Electronic Arts) will take steps to avoid to get the repeat label ‘A Cancer That’s Eroding The Market‘ (by Kotaku), where the quote ““A cynically motivated skeleton of a non-game, a scam that will take your cash and offer nothing in return,” writes Escapist’s Jim Sterling, “A perversion of a respected series, twisted by some of the most soulless, selfish, and nauseating human beings to ever blight the game industry”” is at the heart of the matter of despicability. You see, there are plenty of other games that could make the jump, yet as I see it, when such a game still acquires 4 star ratings, we know that the game is rigged and the provider of these games are trusted less and less. There is a certain failing when we see 136K people gave it a 5 star rating. Not with the push for money spending this game offers! Yet it is a similar population that is crying ‘foul’ with the 50+ hours that No Mans Sky offers and the fact that no extra cash was needed. When you look at the initial videos, the game was to the greatest degree what was promised. We have seen actual issues with the game and most of them were all patched away, none of the patches have been over 150 Mb, whilst the Ubisoft patches that did not solve too many issues surpassed Gigabytes in size. Hello Games with only 11 people achieved something amazing, but that is not what this is about!

I reckon that games like No Mans Sky are likely to be at the rear end, some of the last games that had true diversity in them. It can be the Horizon New Dawn is equally a game offering diversity, but the reviews call that in question to at least the smallest degree. Prey by Arkane Studios shows some originality, but when you play, there are elements that give a Bioshock view, a Dishonored view and more than one source is making the reference to System Shock. It led me to the question, when is new diversity no longer diverse? When we see the architecture and internals, there is a Bioshock feeling to it all (even though this is not under water). When we see the first person abilities with alien powers we see a glimpse of Dishonored. And it is the wrench start that gives us other references. They might just be winks to games like Half Life, it does not make it less diverse. Yet it takes more time and more game play to see actual diversity, so I wonder if we are seeing the end of it. As we play games and wonder about the replay of the Mass Effect and Fable Trilogy, is that the part we now hunger for? That feeling we had when we took another path to see Bowerstone Old Town evolve in a place not with gardens, but muddy with thugs?

Perhaps we want to do the journey one more time, because no matter how we slice it, both trilogies had an amazing storyline and it shows that the TV station FX had the best slogan of them all: ‘the story is everything‘. This is the side we desire and System Shock delivered like no game ever did ever before. Dungeon master had the long term challenge based on the shallowest of reasons (get to the exit). We saw again and again that storylines do the job. In that, a game I never cared for (Final Fantasy series) did deliver way beyond my comprehension, so I am very aware that this game has plenty of reasons to be adored by millions. So as I see it, it might be the equal view that shows us that a game like Prey will deliver on its own merit.

I wonder whether diversity without a decent story has a chance, just like great stories without diversity. In that last example it is the Assassins Creed line that is the best example. From my point of view it is the glitches that killed it, but diversity is equally a reason. When we consider these points, we see that the old great games are still optional winners. They offered originality, diversity and challenge. The response that remake (even 20 years later) is no diversity at all is true and I agree for those replaying it, but for those who never played it before it will be plenty diverse. Now we can depend on that element, as well as the essential element that it is the personal desire to replay a game, yet how does that get us to the never completed remake (at present) game called Midwinter? In the old days, being able to do all these different things on the Atari ST was truly amazing, but those moments have been surpassed long ago by Far Cry 3, so where is its need? We can see that plenty of people would love to see the remake of Paradroid 90, a game that should work easily on tablets and as such it could be a nice way for Andrew Braybrook to increase his retirement fund by a fair bit, because absent a few little issues, the game was near perfect and playable to the largest of extents. I always regarded Loderunner, the ‘1984 game of the year’ in a similar way. I actually had to take the day off (read: sickie) one time as I had been playing all night and continues playing through the day, when I finally made it to level 151 I saw the very first level again yet now at a higher speed. With 80+ lives left I started again until I had enough, I stopped before level 200, exhausted with millions of accumulated points. Best gaming day ever, I was deaf and blind to whatever happened around me and the biggest workout for my Sharp TV ever (in those days).

Perhaps it is that feeling I desire, a feeling many gamers desire, but I do not think so. I believe that the challenges we saw in the past (Mass Effect trilogy) were almost equalled, but never surpassed by anyone, System Shock falls into that category, so do the titles Neverwinter Nights, Dungeon Master (1+2) as well as the 1985 original Elite, which was released on the PC, MAC and Xbox One as Elite Dangerous. The fact that the Elite Dangerous group on Facebook gets dozens of images added on a daily bases for places seen and Elite statuses achieved, shows that this game enhanced and surpassed its own limitation due to limited hardware in 1985. That alone gives rise to the remake of other games. Bullfrog games are likely to top these games, yet the quality that Origin games (Ultima series) offered then and could offer now boggles the mind. In light of what Bethesda Elder Scrolls crated offers a view to remade games that would be overwhelming, whilst not needing to be an Elder Scrolls clone, the challenge of Britannia and the Serpent Isles (Ultima locations) have massive levels of original, never remade options here. The fact that Ultima 4-7 has a deep philosophical drive is equally good as the bulk of RPG games never emulated that part to the degree the Ultima series did. In an age of Intellectual Property, the gaming industry has millions up for grabs, the question is how well this IP has been maintained and at what price are the owners willing to part with it?

This leaves me to the final game that can make it on several fields. In this day and age where the people are eager to have their kids learn abilities through gaming, I cannot remember when, but in the 80’s I was handed a game by Epyx, that was an isometric game where you had to program a droid to walk around scan and avoid obstacles. It was called Chip Bits but never saw the light of day. We can agree that it was a geeky game, but in this day and age where the user age lowers with every iteration of computer hardware, it seems to me that teaching a skill like that could change the implementation curve (and it was truly original). So we are looking at two groups, the ones that were great and the ones that for the silliest of reasons never made it to the final stage. As we see the ease of releasing IOS and Android games, we see a fountain of possible revenue on many levels and the best part is that the starting obstacle is low enough for most toddlers to pass. Even as we see the success of all these mini consoles with dozens of games being released and most of them initially sold out in every shop, is this such a leap? We know that plenty of games have been redone and in some cases surpassed, that is for the games some publishers deemed worthy for release. I remember Psygnosis and the only reason that Lemmings got released because the Marketing manager had nothing to do, literally ‘had nothing to do‘, and those who remember the game might also remember the success it became in the end. So what about the games that didn’t make the cut? Of what about the games that were not that highly regarded initially? ‘Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?‘, an educational game that can easily become a tablet mega seller. Yet, what about the Castles of Dr Creep? Remapped that game might make for a nice puzzle game. So many options, but in itself, there is too much remake on the horizon, which returns me to the initial question:

Are we seeing the end of diversity in gaming?

The answer is yes to a certain extent, but that does not need to be a bad thing, because the limits that we saw in games like Soul Reaver are those we can easily surpass nowadays, meaning that a game that was 20-30 hours on the first PlayStation, could be a 50+ hours game on the PlayStation 4 (and equal systems), giving us plenty to game and plenty to enjoy, whilst the question whether it is diverse enough remains a valid question; one we need to keep in the back of our minds. This remains a valid stopper for a game like Rampage world tour, but is that equally true of a game like Crusader: No remorse? That answer hangs with the evolution the game goes through, meaning that it requires added diversity, showing again that diversity is a gaming currency which decides success to some degree, but it gets added value as the story and challenge are high in the game.

 

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Games in Motion Review?

It seems that there is a lot of polarisation going on. If it isn’t the mudslinging on those opposing Brexit, showing what a bad losers they really are and if it isn’t those crying over commerce whilst the bulk of those so called managers won’t put in an honest day’s work. Then there is a collection of people playing a game, not comprehending what they are doing (go figure).

It is the last group that gets my attention today. The Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/05/no-mans-sky-perils-infinite-promise-sean-murray-hello-games) had an article called ‘No Man’s Sky and the perils of infinite promise‘, and because Sydney is now 3 weeks away from the EB Games EXPO it matters. You see, if you are a casual player fine! That’s OK and as such you might have missed a beat, which is not any criticism. It starts with the utter misconception we have nowadays on what we buy “Clutched in a crinkly bag we held the perfect product“, that is what a true fan will say regardless. This is how we felt when Assassins Creed 2 came our way. When we started a game called Ultima 4 (on CBM-64) and when we started Elite Dangerous. Those who knew had a reference of feelings, we played it, we ‘completed’ it and we desired to get it. This could never have applied to No Man’s Sky, or Subnautica, or Horizon Zero Dawn. Yet it might apply to Mass effect Andromeda! You see when we know it, it has reference, just like buying that album. We heard it, and we want it!

Then we get the quote “The reputation of Peter Molyneux, a veteran British video game designer, toppled after he habitually promised alluring features (knock an acorn off a tree and over the course of the game you’ll be able to watch it grow, he once claimed of Fable) that never surfaced in his games”. Again, Peter’s reputation is very much alive and on heights at my address. I met him a few times and he has delivered time after time again, and as for the ‘Acorn’, he did deliver that too! When you decide on a path in Fable 2, where your actions decides the fate and the look of Bowerstone Old Town.

Now we get to the goods. You see No Man’s Sky very much delivered on its promise. I even rewatched some of the aired clips and shows on YouTube. In this part the Stephen Colbert show had one of the best presentations (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqeN6hj4dZU), of course a few things changes a little (the way naming works), yet what we saw there, we are seeing in the game we play. The only thing not there is the galactic view, yet that is pretty much the only thing. What I don’t get are some of the weird gamers. You see, I get it, I understand that this game might not be for you. You gaming preference might be limited to FIFA, or NFL, or Call of Duty. That’s fine! So many games, so many choices! I love Minecraft, yet many of my friends do not. Again, we all have our preferences. So why are those people, who hate the game so much not sending it back to the shop? Instead of whinging and whining about a game they do not like they could perhaps exchange it for a game they do like.

However, there is a growing group of people who seem to get pleasure into releasing hate reviews of a game. I seem to prefer to take time into reviewing games I do like. Try to transfer my interest in a game, it seems more natural and functional than just vomiting hatred, which is just an idea from my side. The issue I have is that the anger is just so illogical. Yet the quote “In an expansive New Yorker profile, Raffi Khatchadourian wrote that Murray feared the game had become “a Rorschach test of popular expectation, with each player looking for something that might not be there”“, a not inaccurate but flawed. You see, there is a side that has not been exposed, not by any of the publications. Places like The Christian Times one of several who were trying to get some traffic to their site as were a lot more, yet those pages have now miraculously vanished. All making claims that could not have been supported or seconded and as such people suddenly got a dose of info that was not substantiated. Quotes like “The update will also add more diversity to the universe by adding new creatures and alternate galaxies“, so as we see some of the outrageous quotes, claims never made by Sean Murray or Hello Games (as far as I can tell). The quote “When former Sony employee Shahid Kahmal Ahmad criticised some players for requesting refunds, even after, in one case, playing the game for 72 hours, he became a target for online harassment“, which shows just how delusional some gamers tend to be. Yet the article has another side, it does not illuminate it, yet it does mention it with the quote: “Video game-makers struggle in unique ways when it comes to raising audiences’ expectations and then matching them in reality“, which is not the video maker, but its marketing department or the publishers marketing department. The issue was never a given in No Man’s Sky, it created the hype, by merely showing the game. Many games are not anywhere near the uniqueness that this game have and it is up to the marketing departments to create a wave of interest. Many might be able to recall Call of Duty : Ghosts, what was hyped the be the beginning of next generation gaming became the one game that showed that bad planning and good marketing that is, until people started to play the game. Another game that had to rely on hype was Watchdogs. Now, here there is another matter. For one, the development was hit with delay after delay. It was supposed to be the PS4 launch day game and became the game that screwed PS4 players over and gave birth to its own game 36 weeks later, which was just about the delay it had.

You see, I have bashed Ubisoft and Electronic Arts more than once in these matters. What is very much centre to this discussion is how marketing and press seem to smooth over the disappointments that the large players are bringing, whilst Hello games and CD Project Red as small development houses are bringing epic achievements in gaming. The fact that some (me included) regard Witcher 3 to be the perfect game, the perfect achievement in gaming of this kind is probably accepted by all (even those who have no love for that genre). The fact that the unfounded anger towards Hello Games is coming, whilst one of the most guilty parties is the press and the wannabe press reiterating news cycles with added insinuation to lure traffic to their sites as was happening on a near daily basis in the 3 months leading up to the release of the game is left unmentioned. I ended up giving ‘An Early Verdict‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2016/08/08/an-early-verdict/), because of some of the unacceptable rants I saw passing by and because a person named DJ Angel put up an actual decent review of the game and I stand by what I wrote three days before the release and now after well over 50 hours of gameplay: “No Mans Sky exceeded my personal expectations!

Now we need to get to the gritty, because this is going beyond just this game and mere reviews. There is an issue evolving, the issue with this issue is that there are no set standard, there is not limit or barrier that could be regarded as valid. It’s is the job of any marketing department to create a hype, to create interest and it is the job of the reviewer to cut through this all and give a correct reflection of what he/she has played. Yet there are recently two issues evolving. The first is that the game sites seem to encourage hype creation through advertising for example. Yet the reviews are not given until several days after the game is released, leaving the gamer in a vacuum.

I once stated in an article “reviewers should investigate is what I would call a ‘redundancy level’ of gaming. To ‘accommodate’ the marketing divisions to optimise their path, some companies have done away with massive levels of quality control. Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Far Cry 4, Assassins Creed Unity and the list seems to go on, all have the same problem, when you buy the game, you are again forced online to download a day one patch, many of them well over 1 Gb“, the issue that seems to originate through a massive failure of quality control. I would accept a day one patch from Hello Games and Project Red because they are in fact small development houses, they tend to survive on massively cramped budgets. Yet when we see this level of failure form EA and Ubisoft, where they are supposed to be ‘billion dollar companies’ one would imagine a much better prepared track. Often setting almost impossible goals for release and hen coming up short. The fact that the reviewers are giving those larger players all the leeway is perhaps a larger concern then just the games, because once the trust is gone, where will gamers find the information they can trust? The review of games is a field that has been in motion for a very long time, yet I feel that the overall trust of reviews and reviewers is perhaps on its lowest level ever. It seems that that beside printed reviews, the ones online should always be carefully regarded, regarded in a way, of being very precise in what is written (also known as the Murdoch insinuation approach to writing). Whilst some of those outrageous reviews we saw in the past months of No Man’s Sky seems to have vanished, magazines cannot vanish that easily. It seems that the words tend to be less innuendic (is that a real word?) in nature.

So for those who felt let down by No Man’s Sky I ask, did you see some of the video’s on YouTube? Specifically the DJ Angel one? Perhaps you saw the launch video from Eurogamer. The first one (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdJnpf7uXaw) showing 50 planets in 7 minutes. They started the game 50 times and showed just how different the planets were, which was indeed a promise that Sean Murray made and kept! The second one shows 3.5 hours of gameplay (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eASULWu2Ups on launch night), here we see how Aoife Wilson and Johnny Chiodini, comfy on the couch are getting through the initial hours of the game. There is close to no chance that 30 minutes into that gameplay won’t give you a decent idea of what you face even more so than a mere online or printed article.

There are cases when the people have a real reason to complain (remember Assassins Creed Unity), yet as I see it, there is no validity with No Man’s Sky. In addition, the patches we got (4 so far), they were all less than 100Mb if I remember correctly, so whatever patching was done, it was at less than 0.9% of the space that AC Unity needed whilst offering well over 18 quintillion times the gaming space (OK, low blow, I admit that).

So in conclusion I say:

 1. Research the game you are getting hyped about
2. Put question marks to games that have no quality reviews before release dates
3. Stop whining, the first two points should have prevented you from buying a dodgy game.
4. Realise that game videos could get you to guy a game you never expected (it is how I got recently Subnautica)

Make a game about what you want to play, not what other gamers proclaim to be ‘cool!’, you might actually become the cool gamer others proclaim to be!

 

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