Tag Archives: The Division

The gaming E-War is here

The console operators are seeing the light. Even as it comes with some speculation from the writers (me included), we need to try and take a few things towards proper proportions. It is a sign of certain events and Microsoft is dropping the ball again. The CNet news (at https://www.cnet.com/news/xbox-big-fun-deals-e3-week-starts-june-7/) gives us “Microsoft’s big E3 sale on Xbox consoles, games starts June 7“, where we see “Save 50 percent or more on season passes, expansions and DLC and other add-ons“, which sounds good, yet in opposition, some claim that as Microsoft has nothing really new to report (more correctly, much too little to report), they want to maximise sales now hoping to prevent people to move away from the Xbox. I do not completely agree. Even as the setting of no new games is not completely incorrect, the most expected new games tend to not get out in the first month after the E3 (they rarely do), so Microsoft trying to use the E3 to cash in on revenue is perfectly sound and business minded. Out with the old and in with the new as some might say. Yet, Microsoft has been dropping the ball again and again and as more and more people are experiencing the blatant stupidity on the way Microsoft deals with achievements and now we see that these scores are too often unstable (I witnessed this myself), we see that there is a flaw in the system and it is growing, in addition, I found a flaw in several games where achievements were never recognised, implying that the flaw is a lot larger and had been going on for more than just a month or so. The one massive hit that the Xbox360 created is now being nullified, because greed made Microsoft set what I refer to ‘the harassment policy’ of ‘always online‘, this is now backfiring, because it potentially drives people to the PlayStation, who fixed that approach 1-2 years ago (some might prefer the Nintendo Switch). Nintendo needs to fix their one year calendar issue fast before it starts biting them (if they have fixed it, you have my apologies).

Sony is not sitting still either as Cnet reports (at https://www.cnet.com/news/sony-isnt-waiting-for-e3-2018-will-reveal-3-playstation-games-early/), with the quote “Starting Wednesday, June 6, the company will spoil one announcement each and every day for five days in a row. Sony is being tight-lipped about the details, but those announcements will include [censored]“. Yet getting back to Microsoft, they do need and should get recognition for “Up to 75% off select games including Monster Hunter: World, Sea of Thieves and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds“. I admit that a game like monster hunter is an acquired taste, yet 75% off from a 95% rated game like Monster Hunter is just amazing and that game alone is worth buying the Xbox One X for. I only saw the PlayStation edition, yet the impression was as jaw dropping as seeing the 4K edition of AC Origin, so not seriously considering that game at 75% discount is just folly.

The issue is mainly what Microsoft is aiming for (and optionally not telling the gamers). They never made any secret of their desire for the cloud, I have nothing against the cloud, yet when I play games in single player mode, there is no real reason for the cloud (there really is not). So when I see that Microsoft bought GitHub for a little less than 10 billion, we should seriously consider that this is affecting the Xbox One in the future, there is no way around it. Even as we see the Financial Times and the quotes of optional consideration “Microsoft is a developer-first company, and by joining forces with GitHub we strengthen our commitment to developer freedom, openness and innovation,” a claim from CEO Satya Nadella. He can make all the claims he like, yet when we consider that this is a setting of constant updates, upgrades and revisions, we see the possible setting where a gamer faces the hardship that the Oracles DBM’s faced between versions 5 and 7. A possible nearly daily setting of checking libraries, updates and implementations to installed games. Yes, that is the real deal a gamer wants when he/she gets home! (Reminder: the previous part was highly speculative)

As we get presentations from the marketeers, those who brought us ‘the most powerful console on the market‘, they are likely to bring slogans in the future like ‘games that are many times larger than the media can currently hold‘, or perhaps ‘games with the option of bringing additions down the track without charge‘, or my favourite ‘games growing on every level, including smarter enemies‘. All this requires updates and upgrades, yet the basic flaw on the Xbox needing extra drives, extra hardware and power points, whilst increasing the amount of downloads with every month such a system is running is not what we signed up for, because at that point getting a gaming PC is probably the better solution. A business setting aimed at people who wanted to have fun. This is exactly the setting that puts the AU$450 PS4, AU$525 and AU$450 Nintendo Switch on the front of the mind of every gamer soon enough.

The elemental flaw that the system holds is becoming an issue for some and when (or if) they decide to push to the cloud to that extent the issues I give will only grow. Now, I will state that in a multiplayer environment, a GitHub setting has the potential to be ground breaking and my making fun with the slogans I gave in Orange, could be the true devastating settings that will form an entirely new domain in multiplayer gaming. Yet we are not there yet and we will not be there yet for some time to come. Even as Ubisoft is getting better and they did truly push the edge with AC Origin, you only have to think back to The Division, the outages and connection issues. The moment that this hits your console for single player that is the moment when you learned the lesson too late. In similar view we can state that the lessons that we learned with Ubisoft Unity, what I call clearly bad testing and perhaps a marketing push to get the game out too early ‘to satisfy shareholders‘, whilst gamers paid AU$99 for a game needing a ‘mere’ patch, which was stated in the media in 2014 as: “The fourth patch for Assassin’s Creed: Unity arrived yesterday as a sizable 6.7 GB download. At least, that’s the case for non-Xbox One players; some players using the Microsoft console are facing 40 GB downloads for the patch“. Think of that nightmare hitting your console in the future, and with the cloud the issues actually becomes more dangerous as patches were not properly synched and tested. That was the fourth, and that was before 4K gaming became the 4K option on consoles, which would have made the Unity download a speculated 80GB, over 10% of the available space of an empty Xbox One. Now, you must consider that such patches would be enormous on the PS4 pro as well, that whilst Microsoft could have prevented 40% of the issues of the issues we are faced well over a year ago, now consider how you want your gamer life to be. Do you still feel happy at present?

Oh, and Sony is not out of the woods either, even as some are really happy with the PS4Pro, it must be clearly stated that there are enough issues with frame rates on several games, all requiring their own patch, which is not a great setting for Sony to face. Even as the new games are more than likely up to scrap and previously released games like Witcher 3 are still getting patches and upgrades, the fact that God of war had issues was not a great start; the game looked amazing on either system. Still, when it comes to fun, it seems that Nintendo has the jump on both Sony and Microsoft. The Splatoon 2 weapons update (lots more weapons) is just one of the setting that will entice the Nintendo fans not put away their copy of Splatoon 2 any day soon. In addition, Amazon implied that Fallout 76 will be coming to the Nintendo switch, which is a new setting for both Sony and Microsoft. For those imagining that this is a non-issue because of the graphics need to play Metroid Prime on a GameCube and watch it being twice the value that Halo one and two gave on an Xbox (with their much higher resolution graphics). The mistaking belief that high-res graphics are the solution to everything clearly has never seen how innovative gaming on a Nintendo outperforms ‘cool looking images‘ every single time. Now that Bethesda is seeing the light, we could be in for a new age of Vault-Tec exploration, but that is merely my speculated view. That being said, the moment we see Metroid Prime 1 and 2, as well as Pikmin and Mario Sunshine on Switch that will be the day that both my Xbox One and Ps4 will be gathering dust for weeks. These games are that much more fun. I just do hope that it will not overlap with the release of some PS4 games I have been waiting for (like Spiderman), because that in equal measure implies that I need to forgo on hours of essentially needed sleep. Mother Nature tends to be a bitch when it boils down to natural needed solutions (I personally do not belief in a red bull life to play games).

So as we are in the last 4 days before the E3 begins, we are more and more confronted with speculations and anticipation. Cnet was good enough to focus on released facts, which is awesome at present. Yet we are all awaiting the news. That being said, the leaks this year has been a lot larger and revealed information has been on overload too. It might be the first sign that the E3 events could be winding down. There had been noise on the grapevine a few weeks ago, yet I was not certain how reliable that information was. The leaks and pre-release information does imply that E3 is no longer the great secret basket to wait for as it was in previous years. We will know soon, so keep on gaming and no matter which console your heart belongs to, make sure you have fun gaming!

 

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Deadly diversification

A term that is very much aligned with finances, perhaps to some degree this is about that, but it is even more about the diversification of business. The path we see did not start today or yesterday, yet as the news releases pile up, we need to consider the impact some are creating, mostly by not making any level of an impression. The final straw became clear and visible as Eurogamer (at http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2016-12-20-crytek-breaks-silence-lets-go-of-multiple-studios) gave us the news on Crytek. The quote “Crytek had struggled to pay staff since May 2016, but a source within Crytek’s main office in Frankfurt, Germany, told Eurogamer last week that October salaries had arrived, with November salaries set to be paid this week” is at the heart of the matter and as we realise that it is end December, we feel for those people who have been without pay for the longest of times. Now I am not going to kick a person who is down, that just ain’t cricket. Yet what does matter is that if we were to believe Ubisoft, that this house, the makers of Far Cry, Ryse and Crysis is in a mess that is deeper than a mere slump.

So Ubisoft? Were they not evangelising how great a game Far Cry was and how well Far Cry had been doing? If that is so, how come that Crytek is in such a mess? From what was initially a game I did not like (far Cry 1 on xbox360 is the only game I literally threw out of the window, the disc that is) was a game that I ignored, until I got the free edition on the PS3 as part of my PlayStation Plus, so as one does not look a gift horse (you know what I mean), I had a go at it and I was amazed on how a failure had become such a good game. I even bought the 360 edition later. Yet I kept my distance with Far Cry 4 as things were a little weird and the least said about Far Cry Primal the better, although it was not a bad game (at $20 I was willing to chance the burn of a lost $20 bill).

Yet here I myself was making the initial error. You see Crytek was the initial developer of Far Cry, the rest came from Ubisoft Montreal. Far Cry 3 was awesome and what followed was basically more of the same with a few nagging issues, not bad games mind you, but continuation of the same is what was the matter with the Far Cry series, a lesson Ubisoft has been unwilling to learn. I loved Far Cry 3 because of the stealth part, there is a lack of stealth games and Far Cry 3 filled that need. Yet repetition will never be a good taskmaster so as we saw more focus on large explosions and big guns, I personally saw a decline in the Far Cry series. Everyone said I was wrong and the fact that the ratings have been in decline is to some extent evidence that I was not.

Now we know that Ubisoft sees itself as the multibillion dollar revenue titan, yet we can agree that it only remains to be a titan for as long as the games are really good and it has been lacking in that department. If Ubisoft is still breathing it is mainly due to the impressive improvement that Watch Dogs 2 is turning out to be (by Ubisoft Montreal) and the anticipated success that For Honor is showing to become (also Ubisoft Montreal). So is that all?

Nope, the other side of their gaming franchises are taking another hit when we consider the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/dec/19/assassins-creed-film-review-michael-fassbender-videogame-marion-cotillard), when we see ‘achieves transcendental boredom‘ gets a rating of one star and scores a lot lower than last year’s remake of Point Break, we know that the bottom of the barrel had been reached. Ubisoft might not mind losing $120 million as they are approaching 3 billion in value, yet that value becomes debatable and questions whether the value of Ubisoft has been inflated when we look at the non-successes from the last few years. As for the movie? Well I personally think that other questions come to mind when IMDB gives it 8.2 out of 10, yet Rotten Tomatoes sees it as 26% fresh, making it basically 74% rotten. Where the tomato dudes and dudettes state “the CGI-fuelled end result still is still a joylessly over-plotted slog“, with a stellar cast that includes Michael Fassbender (12 years an entrepreneur), Jeremy Irons (from Brideshead Revisited to Justice League a hit) and not to forget the utterly lovely fashionista  Marion Cotillard from Orleans (which is cool as this is one of the few French cities I actually visited in the past), who some saw first in Taxi (by Luc Besson) and most remember for being the person who drive the dagger home into Christian Bale in The Dark Knight Rises, with dozens of additional awesome gigs in between. So the cast was already top notch. So as I see the ratings and critics we can set the issue with the director and script that both might be regarded as below basement levels. In all this Ubisoft needs to be pointed at as the cause for the mere reason that you do not sit idly by as what should have been regarded as the most important franchise of Ubisoft to take a hit like that. A mistake that is not the first one (remember Unity). In this, the review Forbes is giving, as diplomatic as they could be, gives way that several high placed Ubisoft meetings are due and these board members better get a really good grasp of the risks they are now running. Although, I thought they would not last this long, the fact that they are still around can only be attributed to the hit ‘the Division’ became (it really is), the improvements Watch Dogs 2 proved to contain and the informing approach that Jason VandenBerghe has done through quality gameplay videos on YouTube showing the people that For Honor is indeed the awesome journey gamers hoped it to be. We could speculate that the life of Ubisoft would be depending to promote several people from Ubisoft Montreal to get promoted to the board of directors whilst we trim the fat with a sharp blade from the current collection of board members, whether Yves Guillemot would like to call it trimming fat or slicing off surplus weight is up to him, but he needs to do something to get Ubisoft to stand out in a few ways, standing out in one way will no longer be enough, the movie is making sure of that. Regarding For Honor, we have a small addition (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1LF52R8U_0) where the gamer himself is really not that good, yet we still get to see some awesome gameplay, making us all wonder, what damage can we, as overall better gamers do? The fact that I had this question in mind in a multiplayer setting is something I rarely have, mainly because I am not that much of a multiplayer person.

Yet let’s get back to bleeding and sickly Ubisoft. We will see how they will do and how desperate the fans will be to see the movie, yet the reviews are not great and as the AC fans have Rogue One, Moana and Office Christmas Party to see the options for the AC movie are not that great, yet we should consider that any large issues we will possibly see in the new releases could be countered by Ubisoft giving us a free download of the movie, which they can then book as sales and as negative sales (loss) keeping their tax deductibility high as well as their ‘revenue’.

We could attribute that approach to optional good CFO management, yet in that regard, the games that are lacking the high reviews they could have had, as seen by Assassin’s Creed Unity, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Far Cry Primal and the Crew. We need to wonder what else gamers are missing out on and the issue with the movie should not be linked, yet the gamers are unlikely to see it that way. With two non-hits, the movie now expected to be a flop and the AC franchise a year away from the next one, you should see this as an alarm issue for Ubisoft; in addition it is not impossible that Ubisoft could decide down the track (next quarter) to push forward the time line of the next AC game, with additional risks that the next one is another version of Unity.

In all this I am intentionally ignoring Steep. Even though the ratings are not great, I think it is a great achievement in its unique kind. Extreme snow sports are very niche, just like some sport games. The open world approach is truly cool and the fact that there is a tongue in cheek developer amongst that team and added the achievement ‘Shaked by the bell‘ is just awesome, just remember to go head firsts! I will accept that niche games like this score lower because of the niche character, but the fact that it shows something not seen before needs to be heralded, especially as I have been roasting Yves his chestnuts for not doing so in a few franchises.

Crytek might not be linked to Ubisoft, the issues they face are hopefully a loud wakeup call towards Ubisoft. Diversification in gaming is a good thing, as far as I can see, Jason VandenBerghe is excellent evidence of that, yet the wrong direction and distance could hamper growth and divert attention in another direction. Any firm that has €2.98 billion in revenue, whilst ending up with a remaining €561 million in net income should realise that the cost of 10,000 employees is quite the anchor. It is hard to state whether a remaining 18% of the revenue is a good result. I might have a good grasp on games and gaming, yet the CFO side of such a firm is a close an equal to reading tea leaves. Consider that next year, the AC movie results will be in. Not sure on the producers and where the funding came from, because Ubisoft Motion Pictures is only one of the three producers, so the damage would be limited, but with the additional releases in 2017, Ubisoft needs to make very sure that they have at least 2 really good hits in 2017. For Honor seems to be a definite one, yet the other two at present announced is the South Park game and Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Ghost Recon has a good track record, sales will have to show how good a game it is, of course until the final version is ready, we just cannot tell. Of course in addition there will be the games that remain unknown for now, games that will see the first light of day on June 13-15 2017 at the E3, unable to tell whether it will include additional 2017 releases, yet from my point of view, if the list does not change, there will be slimming required for Ubisoft. It would be great to see Ubisoft escape the abyss, especially as the push at present might not be entirely their fault, yet they were partly producers, giving them a slice of that expected flop too.

In the end, these are only a few parts, as stated, Ubisoft has had its shares of successes and the Division is one, with a new DLC available, those who did not take the road of the season pass will have to shell out $15 to get this DLC, giving Ubisoft another boost in revenue. In the end, do these actions matter to anyone but Ubisoft? I am going with yes! You see, we might be positive or slightly negative for the first Assassins Creed, yet there is no doubt that 100% of the fans have been 100% positive regarding Assassins Creed 2 and Brotherhood. This is the reality and we gamers, we want more of that amazement offered in November 2009 and 2010. I reckon it is that part that has driven fans (me included) to such anger as the franchise started to slide and the movie reviews so far aren’t helping either.

Yet, there is a clarity in the success that Watch Dogs 2 brought, which is a forward momentum, baby steps, baby steps.

From my point of view, Ubisoft needs to diversify as stated, yet I reckon it should be in another direction of gaming. I think that the salvation (read: stronger growth) of Ubisoft lies in new IP, in light of Watch Dogs 2 we know that the right team can salvage broken IP, we also know that the right person can create awesome IP (read: Jason VandenBerghe), so if Ubisoft can pull this off twice more, it could return back to the top it once clearly held, even more interesting for the big dude at the top of that hill (read: listens to the name Yves), possibly with a margin decently better than 18%. In that regard 2017 will be an interesting year.

 

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European Exodus Community

There is a reality that people seem to miss. There is a reality that the people at large have been ignoring for far too long. Big business had been until early this year trivialising the entire Brexit issue. Some started the catchphrase ‘Bremain’, but that went out of fashion fast. At some point, in October 2015 something expected happened. An American opened his mount (in this case Trade representative Michael Froman), which gave the Britons “If you leave EU you face barriers to trading with America“, Is that really so? In my view, if the Democratic Party does not get its A-game in place, many will not want to be in trade with a nation that cannot pay its bill anyway. You see, if Brexit becomes a reality, the Euro will take a sizeable dive, which will also hurt the US Dollar. More important, as the US has not been able to keep any kind of control on their budgeting, the US issue would take additional tumbles. Consider that the US exports $57 billion to the UK, should one direction fall away, than so does the other direction, you see pharmaceuticals can come from India, Vehicles can come from Japan and Medical Technical equipment can come from places like the Netherlands (to some extent). We are looking at an easy 12 billion going somewhere else. So that part is not a given, yes, UK export might have a few hitches, yet when other players are found for at least 20 billion in goods, new arrangements will be an option (very fast), not so much for the US of A.

Yet, I get it. The USA is afraid, very afraid because of what the Euro changes will bring and their fear is escalating. This we get from Euractiv (at https://www.euractiv.com/section/uk-europe/news/majority-of-french-back-holding-frexit-referendum/), who is now proclaiming that “53% of French surveyed would like to hold a referendum on their country’s continued EU membership“, an issue I saw coming a long time ago. i was the first one keeping my eye on this, and even as Hollande and Sarkozy are trying to make other ‘arrangements’ they now realise that non-compliance with the French voters will mean that the bulk will demand Marine Le Pen be elected, another prediction I saw coming. More important, should Brexit be averted, than Frexit still remains a real risk. It implies that American will almost be forced to send their own Al Jolson European Tour 2016-2017, yet unlike Al Jolson, this tour will not be a sell-out success, it will be seen as a painful reminder of America not cleaning ‘house’ in the 2004-2009 era. An era that brought many nations to the edge of despair. Now we see the Obama administration trying the option of Al Jolson singing ‘can I have a little more please‘, an idea many Europeans will regard as offensive. The changes will give additional worry. From one perspective, if the dollar collapses, export from America should go through the roof, but the overly mismanaged economy gives a clear clarion call that the funds to cate to this need would end up being insufficient. The latter part is my own speculation, I have no hard numbers supporting that part. From all the export, one in eight is about machinery. This seems to be a solid one, especially from the excellence in the past, yet in all this we in equal measure ignore that the US is not the only place to get this stuff, so if a part will move to an Asian provider, American wealth numbers will take a sharp dive, all that because Michael Froman seemed to have forgotten that they are not the only player in town.

Yet I digress!

There is now the realistic concern that a European Exodus could hit the community, a real danger, which also means that certain borders will come into a different play. This will impact the USA as well as Europe. Yet instead of a clear summary, the press seems to be throwing too much in the air with emotional plays from both sides of that isle which I consider to be not so productive. We see not so helpful articles by Jane McConnell on ‘why Brexit would be apocalyptic for the games industry‘ with quotes like “British gaming receives a wealth of talent and funding as a result of being in the EU“, which is a joke to say the least. When we see PC Gamer giving us info regarding Ubisoft Montreal “but it was built primarily on the strength of Quebec’s generous subsidies and tax breaks, and with a newly-elected government facing serious debt problems, those breaks are being cut back. That has CEO Yannis Mallat taking another look at the studio’s long-term future“, so that billion Euro firm in France is ‘surviving’ due to tax breaks. (at http://www.pcgamer.com/ubisoft-ceo-ponders-reductions-to-quebec-tax-breaks/). Now, remember that this article is 2 years old. So basically in the time that Ubisoft created mere mediocrity in gaming. In all that time only the recently released ‘the Division‘ seems to be up to critical scrap. So how about not catering to tax breaks? The final argument “and thanks to the EU working time directive, we are guaranteed 20 days a year of paid annual leave, offering us all us all at least one day we can happily set aside for binge playing. That’s worth remembering“, how interesting that she relies on that part, not on the part of government accountability which is actually driving people away. In addition, remember Markus Persson, simple small software firm in Sweden? It made over 2 billion in the end (from Minecraft). So, let’s not cater to mediocrity! The same issue can be stated for Hello Games. It is about the reset the bar for gaming quality, both small firms, just the two visible in a group of dozens. These tax breaks are there for the small players, but they have been overwhelmingly used by large players to not dig into the ‘quality setting’ frontiers they should have been in.

I feel personally decently certain that Brexit is becoming a reality. If the press would focus on truth and fact, not on emotion to sway the people, there would be a certainty that Brexit will be. It will drive Frexit too. The EEC will become a near death-trap for the last one in, which means that Italy will not be in a happy place between 2017 and 2018. I expect it will drive the membership numbers of Lega Nord with Matteo Salvini, I cannot tell how strong, because I know too little of the other Italian players. Yet in all this, certain other players are rearing its ugly head. You see, when we go back to November 2015 we see a paper by Natixis (at http://cib.natixis.com/flushdoc.aspx?id=88106), there we see “In the worst case scenario, the United Kingdom leaves the EU and does not join the European Free Trade Association; there would then be custom tariffs between the United Kingdom and the EU, but given the size of the trade flows, the impact on the economies would be limited. The United Kingdom has a very small industry and its exports of services, which are very specialised, would probably not be too severely affected“, this is the view I also ‘synched’ to. Basically, the bad sides of the EU towards the UK are massively larger than the good sides. The Natixis paper by Patrick Artus might not be complete, but it gives the goods that matter, from that point of view.

You see, the short-sighted users of a spreadsheet forgot the drive that Brexit could have, the view I predicted already in 2014. In addition, the growth and danger that right parties all over Europe became, fuelling one another is a side I did not see coming either. In addition to that view, we saw in November that Wolf Richter, Wolf Street in Business insider had “A Brexit would be ‘a non-event’“. I wonder where that came from. Oh no, I need not wonder because they mention Natixis and quote the relevant parts.

So what changed?

Well, the part I foresaw and everyone ignored is that Frexit is slowly becoming a reality. Now we have ourselves a lot more than a mere horserace, because this is what Natixis can’t use. It is in massive parts a French conglomerate, not a global one. In that regard Frexit will impact on Natixis as a whole. In this I mean that Natixis will see its profit margins decrease by a fair bit (we are talking a game of billions here), whilst in equal part limit certain economic movements and options. That makes it a different event. And the less we say about the impact on the US the better. Ah, here I am wrong!

You see, Lieutenant general Frederick Benjamin Hodges gives us the following last Tuesday (at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-eu-usa-idUSKCN0WH0QJ), we get ‘Brexit would weaken NATO versus Russia‘, which is not entirely correct, is it Freddie? It is not a lie either! The mess seems complicated but it is not. We can agree that the General is under orders here. I reckon massively from his Commander in Chief who dropped the ball several times and is sending the General out into an economic field that is not ‘his’ theatre of war. Here is the part that is unwritten (not by me), whilst everyone was looking at Lehman Brothers and other Wall Street players, they all forgot about Natixis, who has a wealth portfolio that delivers an annual return that outranks more than just a few EU nations. When that limits and dwindles many players will panic, because the survival of some is now depending on continuity. Something that behind the screens of Brexit and Frexit comes to terms. With Brexit there was enough time to make adjustments, with Frexit that time will not be there, apart from the fact that it will force Germany to take a different course (one that is expected, but cannot be predicted). In all this that is only one element. The General is right that NATO will weaken, what is not given is that it will change the expenditure that some nations are making, which will directly hit Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which will now be a sizeable dent in the American economy too. Apart from a collapsing Euro, America will get hit by a double whammy, that part is not given (it is ignored by too many), not shown and not elaborated on. It is how expenditure changes. NATO existed since long before the Euro was a reality, but as those evolutions were taken, by lowering defence spending on a national level in Europe, we see that this ignored cluster will have serious consequences, very much so for the American military hardware industry.

Can I be wrong?

That is what matter, for me as much as for you the reader. We will be depending on two elements, Is Brexit a reality in the first and will it force Frexit in the second. The first is less up in the air, but not a given, in the second, when Brexit happens, Frexit will be a certainty. Even if Brexit does not happen now, the French are worried and they do not want to be the last in the row of decision makers as Italy currently is, the fact that 53% want this referendum is worrying to many players (except for Marine Le Pen). Both Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy cannot ignore the cries of the French, if they do, they will feel the discomfort that Marie Antoinette had on October 16th 1793 (well, one can fantasize, can one not?), because France is for the French (as they see it), not for the Americans. They will come down hard on their government, which is playing perfectly into the hands of Marine Le Pen. No matter what happens, with or without Brexit. Germany cannot sustain the environment without the other three players, which places the UK now in a tactical predicament. Relying on France to keep cool, this is what drives Brexit to additional momentum.

So all this will drive the European Exodus Community, to some extent people, because national business needs the motivated people to get businesses working and moving forward, but for the most it will be about small businesses in a national setting. Those who adapt fast will grow. Larger corporations will feel the disastrous drag of not changing gears, of not adapting to the new environment, mainly because those head offices (many in America and Asia) will not comprehend the old systems that drove them and the changes required to make them. Those depending on decision makers will find that delays will cost increasingly until (often enough) the decision has been made too late. Rowing against the current will be a new slogan that larger players will have to deal with, driving their talents to smaller places where speed is available. This exodus environment will hit in many places, in many layers on several fronts. A front where only the adjusted will make headway. I wonder whether 2018 will be the year of culling the corporate herd. It is too soon to tell, but it will for the most depend on the brethren Brexit and Frexit both leaving this rocky boat called EEC!

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What is it?

It is time to get involved! Part of me tried to promise again and again not to do so, but Google search made me so angry that there is no option left other than to get involved. Really bad reviews all over. The hatchet job metro.co.uk does by just phrasing some ‘opinions’. Even places like Christian Today took several options to rely on bad writing and half-baked unsubstantiated rumours of what they considered to be No Mans Sky. I ignored it for the most, but it is March now, so No Man’s Sky is a mere 12 weeks away. So it is time to start tapping the keyboard.

First of all, do not just rely on my word. A good review, an open review and a good look on the near final version. You can find it at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTRb1E9s6pg. The preview by Chris Bratt and Martin Robinson is an excellent piece of work. It gives you part of the game, it gives you the impressions and it shows you the excellence. I would personally call it one of the best previews ever. I also believe that as they were doing it together, you will hear the bouncing of ideas and impressions, so not a rant from a singular person in any way.

From my point of view No Man’s Sky is what I always believed it to be, an open game of exploration. In that way it has earned its own niche. I will go one step further, together with Elite Dangerous you would end up with the one of the best near perfect experience of interstellar sandbox gaming. One quote is still at the axial of the game ‘You move to the centre of the universe’, yet would you want to? That is the magic of the sandbox game, as everyone builds a castle, you could sculpt a mermaid; that is the beauty of the sandbox, it is about your imagination. Do you want to become the next Darwin and catalogue a planet? Do you want to be the next Roald Amundsen and map a planet, or would you like to be the next James F. Reilly and map the elements? This game offers it all as far as I have seen it. In balance you get to do it all, see it all and move from planet to planet in the process.

I must also ask the question all others are claiming, would it be a disappointment? I feel for 100% that for me it will nothing less than an amazing experience. That does not mean you will feel the same way. We all have other interests. There is however one element that no one can deny. Just like the legendary games Elite Dangerous, Minecraft and Diablo 3. These are games you play you play something else and at times you pick these games up again. That is the beauty of games like this. You can always get back to this game, making games like this the best gaming investments ever.

There is another side to this game. I feel certain that it will evolve over time, which means that like Elite Dangerous, we will very likely see additions down the road, how could that not happen. The fact that ED is offering Horizons this year, an addition that allows you to land on planets and drive around. I started playing Elite Dangerous again after 2 months, mainly because it took a little while to finish 2 games and get my Fallout 4 character to level 60. I feel that this is what we get with No Man’s Sky (NMS), you want to play it non-stop at first, but like any other event, we will suddenly get a game we must play immediately (like Mass Effect 4, Shenmue 3 or Bards Tale 4), whatever YOUR bowl of cereal is, you can always return to NMS, making this an amazing choice. Now again, it might not be your cup of tea, which is fair enough. Let’s face it, some people just want to play Destiny morning noon and night, which is their choice to make.

Going back to that video, the one thing that is clearly shown is that the graphics give a first clear indication that a team of 11 can equal if not surpass the abilities of a 1 Billion Euro corporation called Ubisoft. This is why I believe in No Mans Sky, because they show the basic flaw of players like Ubisoft. By setting up rules for a game to not be a failure, you set up the equal rules for a game to never be truly exceptional.

Personally, I believe that this is why No Mans Sky took so long, this is why letting Hello Games run at their own speed was the only option ever. So when we consider the hatchet job reviews from a place like hardcoregamer.com with the specific quote “This game is quite literally promising the moon, and that’s exactly why it will be so soul-crushingly underwhelming“. No Brandon, the game has so far shown to be beyond normal, it has so far proven every bit of hype the gamer has had for it and we are a mere 12 weeks away from learning the truth.

It is not the gamer, it is the press that had been hyping NMS whenever they could and now they have a go at Sean Murray (and the game). I tried to remain absent of those discussions until now. Now we must face what we are about to get and Eurogamer does that in an amazing way. Even Forbes Tech got involved in a not too positive way comparing it to Spore. The reality is that it took longer to finish. Like Minecraft this production is truly visionary and truly unique, which beckons the question where Forbes (Paul Tassi) has his views, because as he hits out against NMS, he is in equal measure really quiet on the ‘downgraded’ graphics of ‘the Division’, but he’ll likely call it the semantics of the moment, mainly because Ubisoft did not send out review copies, which is really weird a week before launch. The  quote “an…interesting course forward with the way The Division will be covered by the games press at launch” (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2016/03/02/there-is-no-the-division-review-embargo-because-there-are-no-review-copies/#18df7a3016cd) gives more questions towards Ubisoft, more precisely why they are not asking them from the 1 Billion Euro Ubisoft and negatively speculating them towards Hello Games. This is perhaps the most upsetting part, especially from Forbes. The additional ‘BS’ quote “Since it’s impossible for us to populate the servers in a way that would adequately replicate playing The Division on launch day, reviewers will start playing the game along with everyone else when it’s released on March 8“, my reference to BS is as follows. They either admitted to the fact that the game has not been properly tested, which might make this a valid case for prosecution against Ubisoft down the track, or they just do not want ANYONE to see the game before release for other reasons, when that includes the press I tend to get a little jumpy!

Yes, all those speculations in the negative for Hello Games and in the denial of reality on the side of large developers. I wonder what excuse the press will give next.

For my side, the question on ‘what is it’ regarding No Man’s Sky is harder to answer, because there is no clear answer. It is a sandbox game and that makes it what YOU make of it, you as the gamer. In my case it makes me wonder what else the game has in store and in about 12 weeks I will learn, I hope that you will take a moment to find out and to truly look at the facts and not at the gossip or the speculative. With that I leave you with the fact that the Eurogamer video was hands on the game, so look at it and form your own first opinion.

 

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Redo from start?

I have been considering the games that are, that are soon to come and those we wish to see again. I feel that I am not unique, I am one of many who feels the same way many gamers feel. It all started with a simple pre-order notice I saw at JB-Hifi. The order was not for Mass Effect 4, but for Mass Effect, which seemed a little odd. Soon I found a few less reliable mentions of a possible upcoming re-release of Mass Effect 1, 2 and 3 for Nextgen (Xbox One and PS4). I got excited, because overall the Mass Effect series are nothing short of a marvellous achievement. Consider that Mass Effect is one of the earliest Xbox360 releases, it still hold a storyline that was amazing to play. Yes, we will replay and we will know certain key parts, but that is still not an issue for those who love Mass Effect.

The revamped version of the last of us seemed to have instilled a desire for games on Nextgen that should make developers happy. Is that because the lack of good games or is that because the new games are leaving us cold? I think it is a little bit of both. As studios tried to play the ‘marketing game’ they are now learning harshly that playing that game on gamers is a sure way to see your product get smashed. The outrage that Assassins Creed Unity brought is only one of the elements. I will go one step further, a relaunch with upgrades to the story of Assassins Creed 1, 2 and brotherhood would very likely be more successful than the next Assassins Creed. This for the simple reason that the makers seem to have lost their way (the fact that Unity is regarded by many as the worst Nextgen release does not help any).

Even a relaunch of System Shock (1+2) is likely to draw in a much larger crowd than the likely disappointments new PS4 RPG’s are going to bring. The added issues is not just the game, the problem is for the most the marketing division for these developers; a decent example is the Division by Ubisoft. My issue is that so far the game might look good and could even become great, but in their approach to feed the hungry hordes of journalists and to remain ‘visible’, the people at E3 2014 got to see something that is now not coming until 2016, even the Q1 part here is currently under debate, so as the gamer is promised a game that is now 19 months from its initial ‘presentation’ the people are wondering whether to trust the game because of the mental link we all make between presentation and delivery. It leaves many of us with the thought ‘how many bugs do they need to fix‘? Now, that thought might not be the correct one, but when 10,000+ people think it, some outspoken nitwit will scream it on YouTube, which results in many players moving away from what could be a good game. An example here is Elder Scrolls online, which is a marketing disaster, yet when we see the review from ChaosD1 (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=2082&v=csY7RYF4rKQ), which is excellent and might change the minds of those who walked away from Elder Scrolls Online.

We the players now want to move to games we know, we trust and believe in, which gives added weight to relaunched games. Let’s not forget that Borderlands, The Last of Us and God of War 3 were excellent games. There is however another form of relaunch, one that is not actually a relaunch, but a new evolution of the game. Elite, the legendary game from the BBC Micro B, might have made its fame on the CBM64, it is the upcoming console version which left some parts intact that is now the talk of many towns and even more gamer communities. It shows a new air and an approach to a ‘sandbox’ world many are eager to get onto. As Elite upped the game by mapping the galaxy, with the added wink to legendary science fiction moments, which they did by adding Vulcan and the Leonard Nimoy Space Station as well as Pratchett’s Disc Starport. It is still many years away (as he is in good health), but the moment will come when we will get a place like Badger’s station or the President Lampkin’s station of justice as Mark Sheppard joins the legendary ranks in Elite: Dangerous. You might wonder what does it matter, but it does! You see, as the gamer identifies with moments of his own ‘reality’, the things he/she is passionate about! The game becomes more fun and we will see that people connect more to a game. The danger is that when the threshold lowers and too many ‘legends’ are added, it could drive down the sentiment overall, but the sentiment remains! This will not hinder the upcoming No Man’s sky and both titles will very likely appeal to many players. In that same air we should see the upcoming Shadow of the Beast. What was a scrolling game with slashing on the Amiga/Atari ST, is showing itself to be a Nextgen blood dripping slice and dice extravaganza. This is a new group where the makers can relaunch their original idea and many gamers will love them. So, as the ‘new’ games don’t hack it, the gamers will get treated to a game that did and will do so again. The benefit here is that game makers will need to up their game by a lot to get out there. In the end the gamer wins no matter what! (Don’t you just love that?)

So they will pray at the ‘shrine of Pong‘ to replay System Shock, which does not hinder others either. When we consider Paradroid, or even some games for a chosen crowd like Sierra Entertainment’s games called Manhunter New York and Manhunter 2: San Francisco. They were well above average games then and could now get vamped into truly awesome games tomorrow. Perhaps we will actually live to see the conclusion of part 3 in London. It will be up to Activision to decide and as I see it, it just takes one visionary view within Activision to unlock that revenue! That same feeling is there for the Ultima series. Even though game 10 was an experience released too soon, the idea of an ‘Elder scrolls World’ that is Britannia could be massive. The fact that a developed ‘world’ is scanned and transferred to a first person environment complete with quests, side quests and upgraded storyline could give way to a new generation of gamers, let’s not forget that those who played the original are now regarded to be in the ‘old’ section (yes, that includes me), whilst the young section will experience something completely original in a new jacket. A world where you get Ultima 4, 5 and 6 in one game on the same world with the challenges to master is not only new and novel, pulling it off would raise the bar of gaming considerably. Something all gamers desire!

We became complacent in gaming as we played the Assassins Creed series, which for the most was just ‘more’ (specifically 2, Brotherhood and Revelations). Shadow of the Beast and Elite: Dangerous are now showing that ‘more’ can be an entire new range in evolution, a part many gamers (and developers) have not truly contemplated. As those behind the developers, learn to look behind them on what was and what can be great again, we learn, actually as I see it, it is the gamer taught the developer that games can be recycled.

Yet, we must also consider that it is not about the open world part, a trap I myself tend to fall into. The immersing part of being trapped in a house and surviving it, or as some will call it Alien: Isolation is basically redoing what was great and leaving the player with a replayable challenge. Which is the holy grail of gaming! I believe that more could be coming. I still regard Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2 (GameCube games) as one of the most amazing games Nintendo ever released, they did on 3” DVD what many developers could not achieve on a 4.7” Blu-ray, which is truly amazing.

On the other side we see the failures, the hype that was Watchdogs is regarded by some as a failure and a joke. I do not completely agree, but overall the game is not the titan it was heralded to be, but it could be the introduction to a second game that is really awesome (Assassins Creed 1 + 2 are evidence of that), I am just willing to see the glass half full in the case of Watchdogs and I am willing to give Ubisoft a little slack in this game, especially as they do not deserve any slack for butchering the Assassins Creed series (yes, I am slightly obsessed with that). On that same line I tend to set Thief! It was not great, but decent, I do not regret getting the game when I did.

What will come next? Well, that is the question, so as many stare at the horizon for Fallout 4 and Mass Effect 4, we should not hesitate to look behind us to see new (and hopefully improved versions) of Tenchu and Mega-lo-Mania. In my view as all the developers are focussing on multi-player and micro transactions, they forget that the bulk of ALL gamers need moments of escapism, where they need not weigh anything, but focus on just having fun. This is why Minecraft is so bloody addictive. Diablo again shows levels of fulfilment. It is basically why people on Facebook keep a game like Zombie Slayer around. It has no mental need (minimal) it has decent graphics (images) and it shows progress. I will take it one step further, especially as I am not that much of a zombie fan. It is in my view one of the reasons why some of these games will always survive, when we add Pokémon to the mix we see that part even further. It is only because of the technological flaw that Sapphire and Ruby could no longer be played, yet now, with the 3DS editions, we see the power of that formula. Those who played before still love what can be played again, so as some stare forward to the horizon of new games due to technology, do not forget about the treasures behind us. Now some do not feel that ‘vigour’ when they play Colonization, a Sid Meier masterpiece, because it is board like and turn based, but what happens when the mastery of Colonization gets blended with the freedom of play that Seven Cities of Gold on the CBM-64 brought? Evolution, re-playability and challenge all in one go! I would really be curious to see such a result. I believe that within 95% of all gamers is a casual gamer that just wants to have fun, which is why Diablo and Minecraft will survive forever, we will do the multi thing in Mass Effect 3 for periods of time (best multi player experience EVER!), yet we will always return to the games that mentally satisfy, the part that scripted games cannot deliver, a niche market with long term gaming fun many developers seem to ignore.

Let the games begin!

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UBI is not going soft!

Another year and another E3 ends for the gaming industry and their devoted disciples, the gamers! Do not think this group to be soft, to be forgiving or to be misguided. They are running beyond 1 billion believers and they all believe in the power of joy from the game. It is a dedicated group. They have existed for over three decades and their numbers still grow.

They are not dressed in clerical outfits worshipping the house of Pong (it’s an Atari thing). They want their games hard, direct and lasting. I truly believed that this group had been deserted by UBI-Soft. I remain true to the feeling that UBI-Soft had gone soft on gaming. There was that Assassins Creed wannabe game regarding pirates (rated much too high), there were a few flops (which any maker will have) and Watchdogs, which was going to be a PS4 launch night game was delayed by a lot. Then we got Watchdogs, which was good, but had been overhyped too much by too many (not all due to UBI-Soft). So, here we have a maker, making a billion plus, losing the game, or so I thought.

I must admit that UBI-Soft is showing true gaming promise, even if some of the cut scenes are massively overdone (but the younger players love them).

There is Far-Cry 4, a game that until recently I would never consider touching. This game must be mentioned for two reasons. I bought the first one on the 360, and I still regard that as the WORST purchase ever! I did not play the second one, yet at some point I did play the third one and it was excellent. The game showed the openness of Midwinter (an old Microprose game), had the interest of many options, choices and sides and left me with a very good aftertaste in my mouth. UBI-Soft turned a fiasco into a winner. As I bash Yves Guillemot around at times, I must be honest enough to admit victory where he (or his minions) makes them.

I think that E3 2014 shows that not only is UBI-Soft back in the game; they are on route of reclaiming the number one development spot (which I considered that they had lost). There is more of course. I loved the Splinter Cell games, but they messed up Blacklist by not setting up the interface for replaying any better (it was the only flaw in my mind).

As for the new games, I was never much for racing, but the Crew has me yearning for the controller to play an ‘open’ racing game! There is a lot we might still wonder, but the presentation shows something that Sony with Drive Club did not deliver from demo day one and now is unlikely to equal. Now THAT is how you set up a game Monseigneur Guillemot!

Getting back to killing people! Whether the streets of Paris are the place to wander in anonymity is matter for another discussion, yet the idea that it will be an open environment game is without a doubt a massive step forward, especially in the light of the size a village like Paris represents. I was not impressed with Black Flag, but bought it regardless (lack of PS4 choices at launch night). It turned out I was right (read the other articles ‘A body blow to gaming‘ on March 6th and ‘Fifth in a trilogy!‘ on December 4th). Yet, the demo I saw in regards to AC Unity has me interested. It could be a massive turn for the better; I will however write fire and brimstone if they revert to the same ruddy glitches I have seen for 4 iterations.

Next, there will be more Tom Clancy in both the new Rainbow Six (not my cup of tea) and ‘the Division’ which seems to be very much my cup of tea.

Yes, as I see it, UBI-Soft is waking up to smell the need of the gamers and they are implying in their presentations that they are meeting the challenge. Time will tell, but I am a lot more positive about the course Yves Guillemot is taking UBI-Soft. I reckon that Next Gen gaming is finally getting a secure spot in the future.

When it comes down to Next Gen, I am not done yet. I have spoken out against Microsoft (or Micro$oft) in past items more than once. The image they left in 2013 drove me powerfully away from Xbox One and straight into the arms of Sony, which I considered to be the true consoles for a long time (PlayStation One, Two, Three and Four). Their approach of an ‘entertainment’ system in 2013 left me without a doubt that even though they seemed clued in with the Xbox 360, the top of Microsoft forgot what gaming was all about and came up with a half-baked device. I still think that the Xbox one is flawed on several levels, but their presentation on upcoming games does show that they are trying to figure it out. Their show was indeed really good (against Sony’s presentation which had slipped slightly) and the funny remark by Peter Molyneux in regards to Fable Legends that ‘it needs more dog‘ (via Twitter).

There is one more issue that I want to raise at present. It is all about the delays. Part of this is because of places like Gamespot, part of this is because of the Marketing divisions of places like UBI-Soft (and many others) and most of it is because of a truckload of gamers. Yes, I agree I want to play all the games today or even tomorrow, but a good game requires waiting at time. A good game will be done when it is done. So when we see a list of games like Batman: Arkham Knight, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, The Order: 1886, Quantum Break, Dying Light and The Division that will not make it to the console in 2014, gamers need to stop crying like little bitches! We (me and millions of gamers) want to play a 90% plus game that is legend, not a game that became mediocre like Thief, because someone at marketing pushed for a quicker deadline. The difference between Arkham City (90%) and Viking: Battle for Asgard (50%) is both timing and vision. We cannot do anything about a lack of vision (something the delayed games are not in short supply of) and timing is what we should give them, even though the valid issue remains ‘why show anything at E3-2013’, which is a discussion for another day; let me assure you of that. If we get back to UBI-Soft, then we must admit that Watchdog, with a 500 page hint guide shows that this game is loaded with stuff. It ended up being an 80% game, on release date this would have been a mere 45% rated joke.

We should never be dependent on ratings, that evidence is seen when we look at Gamespot with AC4 Black flag at 90%, which was too high and Thief at 60% was unfairly low (in my opinion). Yet, they are indicators of what we might want to spend money on. Games will always be overhyped by all (including me), it is influenced by what we played (Thief 1+2) and what we expect to see (the Thief demo at E3 2013). So will the next Rise of the Tomb Raider learn from the mistakes (as I see them) that they made with the 2013 release?

Time and patience will tell!

 

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