Tag Archives: Thief

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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Story about a game!

This all started with a video blog. It can be found at Gamespot and it is given by Danny O’Dwyer in a segment called ‘the point’ (at http://www.gamespot.com/videos/the-point-is-marketing-killing-the-wonder-of-games/2300-6420070/).

He hit an interesting snare with the topic of over marketing and I agree. When I started to think this through, I also got to the point that it is not all about the marketing side of that caper, but another side to the ‘lack of wonder’ as he put it in gaming. He was talking to someone from an upcoming game called ‘No man’s sky‘, the man is a Minecraft fan, which pretty much had my attention from the very beginning.

You see, gaming has become too much about getting to the end of the track with an added need to get achievements. Too many games are a chase. Minecraft is all about just having fun. It is virtual LEGO at its very finest; this awakens the creators in us, which is always a great thing. The issue ‘missed’ (which might be the wrong term) is that one side in the lack of gaming wonder (as I see it) is an off-set between freedom and storyline. It is the combination that has always drawn me to gaming, which makes me a sucker for any decent RPG.

Minecraft does not have any story, but it counters this with an amazing amount of freedom and exploration. I am not stating that Minecraft needs a story, but as we get the freedom to explore, discover and do whatever we feel like, the impact of a story is less of a factor. As freedom moves away (like towards a Call of Duty or a Ghost Recon), the story becomes more and more important. Some get it right (the Mass Effect series and The Last of Us), where the story drives us, whilst we get a limited amount of freedom to do whatever we like, or we get added parameters (challenges), many get it decent (Far Cry & Tomb Raider) not to mention, Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriot, which is still one of the best games of its kind, even a whole console generation later. Some lose out a little as I personally see it (Call of Duty & Halo), but these games counter it with another extra, which I will get back to shortly. Against these games are the open games like Oblivion, Fallout, Fallout New Vegas and Skyrim, where there is a decent story, yet the additional openness of the game makes a massive impact.

There are a few that lose massive points, because they got the story kind of right, but then the game-play, linearity and the lack of insight suddenly made what could be a massive hit, but got to be no better than mediocre as I see it. In this category we see games like Thief and Second Son (Infamous3).

Second Son is the strongest in that regard, as I see it; the game was over-hyped and over marketed. The game starts really nice, then after a while the designer gets sloppy. The evidence as I see it? Consider that you cleaned the first Island and as your smoke powers grew, you got decently into the story, at some point you get the 3rd power (video), instead of reopening the first island, adding additional challenges and added missions, perhaps even adding more laser and speed missions (2nd power), maximising the power of video, you continue on the linear path to the conclusion of the game. In addition, instead of actually giving added powers to the concrete power by adding challenges for cleaning the city or removing the concrete power out of the soldiers, the game pretty much ends and the concrete power actually becomes kind of ‘lame’, the one power you coveted the most is the one power you can happily do without.

It is that lack that is also killing the wonder in games and gaming. It is a sloppy side.

I mentioned Halo and Call of Duty. These games survive on the challenge of multi-player and that is fine, but I think that these gamers could get a boost of gaming if the story was something you could get through, or even explore a little, instead of run through to the end. Perhaps that is not what they want, which is fair enough, but the reception that Far Cry 3 got (including from me), gives a little strength to the view I personally have. I admit that not all gamers will agree here. In addition, I will reopen the talks on multi-player. Most gamers who are into this side, love (and demand) a good multi-player side to the game. I have never been a Halo fan, but I hear good things about it, some games have a massive downturn in multi-player gaming. In that regard, it is Assassin’s Creed and Tomb Raider that are the worst of them. You see, I believe that things either are balanced or they get an edge, having neither is a bad thing. With these two games, I have tried several times and when you start as a level 1 person, getting stacked against level 50 people, only to get stuck in a bottle neck with opposing you mini guns, one shot killing bows and people with 2-3 bonus skills, you know that the makers missed out and soon thereafter most will have had enough. In opposition I would like to mention God of War, which had an amazing multi-player mode. I was really impressed. You go 4 against 4 and you might have a weapons edge, or not, the fact that it is about the group achievement, you still get some points and soon thereafter you become an equal and even an asset in the multi-player version. A game like that invites multi-player and entices players to get out and do it multi style, which is how it should be. The last one to mention here is Mass Effect 3, which I consider to be the greatest multi-player game of all time. You go in groups of four, you go against a decent AI (at times an overwhelming one) and you go into maps you might have already seen. The options to improve the skills of the characters, the weapons, and armour by playing and buying upgrades is just too much fun. It is the most addictive multi-player form I have ever experienced. I met some of the best players ever. At one point I reached the top 2% of the multi-players, considering that there are over 1.2 million Mass Effect 3 players is just an AWESOME feeling! In all that time, the multi-player remained true to the story (given is that it is just to kill enemies, how wrong can you go) and true to the atmosphere of the game. In Mass Effect 3, it was NEVER about the multi-player, which makes it all even better.

I feel that gaming could move up a notch, not because of the nextgen in consoles, but because the developers will pay better and more attention to the story they hand out.

Even though we all still enjoy a game of Galaga at times, a game that was never about the story and all about zapping the baddies.Most of us will always love to have at least one game like that. I got Scribble Shooter and it is great fun! It is about the other 24 games we buy and we must consider that the next 5-8 years of all franchises will be about the IP (Intellectual Property), making a better story part of the mix will only bind us stronger to the game of our choice, which is one thing the developer will love.

In the end we the gamer win and through this so will the developer!

 

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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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First day peril

What do you do when you like a game? The initial answer is to buy and play it. Yet, this was not the case in the past and there are now growing issues that allows for the creation of a situation where might soon be the case again.

In my youth I had hundreds of games on my Commodore 64, many of them were less hindered by original packaging. I knew it was not quite right, but I did not think I was breaking any laws. Reasoning? I did buy original games, however many of them were not for sale and would never be for sale.

When I look back at my second computer I was happy to have bought the Commodore 64 with a 1541 disk drive for the price of almost $1500 dollars, those were the days! I also bought four games in the first 3 weeks. Loderunner by Broderbund, Suspended by Infocom, US Mail by US Gold and the Flight Simulator 2. The FS2 was the big one at $200, the other games were $90 each and I do not regret buying these games. US gold was a low level entry into flying, the FS2 was a high end flight simulator with all kinds of maps and Infocom was a challenge unlike any I would play for a long time. Loderunner was the odd duck in that list. I got so hooked on it that I had to take a sickie, so that I could play through the entire game in one go (no save and continue options in those days), all 150 levels, level 151 was the first level on a higher speed. It took the best part of a day and most of the night to get through it all. When I stopped I had well over 65 million points, 80 lives and no physical energy left, those were the days. In those days I also learned the hard way how distribution exploitation worked. The games that we all read about we could never order and the some games were 200%-500% more expensive in the Netherlands then they were in the US. So for a long time, there were no games to get. I remember these issues, because I was truly happy to get the original game (Ultima 3 by Origin) 2 years after I had already finished the game. This is however not about the legality of gaming.

This is about gaming itself. When I go through the ages of the games I bought on the CBM-64, Atari ST and CBM Amiga. The games had a massive amount of value. This only increased when the Nintendo N-64 and the PlayStation arrived. I am talking about good quality graphics (for those days) and the amount of game time a game offered. The Ultima series offered weeks of fun (if you are into RPG games), Ultima 3 on CBM-64 and Ultima 4 on Atari ST. I will go one step further stating that this last game had so much depth and story line that it is still for the most equaled, but not surpassed on today’s RPG games. If you are into a more active role in gaming then we had Boulder Dash, Ghosts and Goblins, Sentinel, Green Beret, Iridium and Rambo, each of these games offering well over 20 hours of gaming pleasure. Not to mention the pleasure you got from replaying at times.

So here it is: How come that a new PS4 game named Infamous: Second Son only offers 15 hours (1 play through) at $109? I did this in one weekend and I am not the best when it comes to action shooter games. This is at the heart of gaming now. Marketing gives us the ‘flim-flam’ of graphics, the storyline is decent, but the amount of play time is basically in the basement. With the engine in place, they could have offered an easy 10-20 hours of additional game play, so why are they not giving the consumer that? More important, as this is the first year for the new PlayStation, why is Sony not taking a better look at the games that are slowly pushing people to the Xbox One?

Yes, I did read that Sony is happy about the 6 million consoles and they think they are the clear winner now. This is an error that could prove to be fatal! Consider the PS2 (over 150 million), the PlayStation (the first one) over 100 million. The PS3 only sold 80 million, which is roughly the same as the Xbox 360, so 6 million consoles is no victory. The current lack of releases, the delays and now the released games are not the incentive Sony should be hoping for.

There is an overall lack of quality gaming and both big players (Sony and Microsoft) need to get their thinking caps on and consider the implications that a lack of quality brings. No matter how secure you make your system, people have almost no money to spend and spending $100 for something that represents less than a day of fun will not cut it. People (read students) will find a way around it. They do not just want to play games, they are quite right to demand value for money and that is what is found lacking more and more, no matter how good the graphics are.

I understand that an RPG is not for all, but then consider the amount of time it took just to finish the very first Tomb Raider. The second Tomb Raider took almost the same amount of time, each offering well over 300% of the fun that current games seem to bring (including the latest Tomb raider). Next gen consoles are one, but a regression of gaming quality is not what we wanted to see. This evidence can also be seen when we see the launch of remastered games from one console to the other one. The fact that Banjo had a huge following was shown as many bought the game on Microsoft Live Arcade (I reckon many of them former N-64 owners). So when we consider the games of Rare (a truly rare high quality developer for the Nintendo) and the need for gaming, compared to the pale imitations of games we see nowadays, I cannot stop wondering who is behind the lacking vision of some games and why some games just do not make a decent quality cut.

This last part can be countered or defended when we look at what I regard to be a questionable game. Metal Gear Solid 5, Ground Zero is an introduction game that is coming out this week for $50. Now, I still consider MGS4: Games of the patriot to be one of the best games the PS3 ever released and it was released in the first year of the PS3. With MGS5 however, there is a video out that completes the main game in only 10 minutes (when bypassing cut scenes and side missions), it is at http://www.gamespot.com/articles/you-can-finish-metal-gear-solid-5-ground-zeroes-in-10-minutes/1100-6418384/

I get that MGS fans might have missed their favourite character, but can anyone explain how a game can remain interesting when the main mission is so small? It comes down to a $300 an hour game and that is asking us to hand over cash for all the wrong reasons.

Gaming is taking a turn for the worst for now. Yes, better games will come, but how? We see more and more games relying on micro transactions. Either, you pay $3-$5 for additional outfits, weapons and downloads that give you additional missions at $5-15, yet when we add this to the base game, does the consumer still get value for money? In this day and age of economic hardship, that is the true issue that counts for families having a console and that demand is not being met, not even close. There is a reason for giving the spotlight to Metal Gear Solid in this case. The fact that a franchise that had a game that ended up being regarded as the best on a console twice is not a fluke. MGS on PS1 and MGS4 on PS3 showed that the makers knew games; they understood their gamers and they drove a console forward. It is slightly worrying that the bosses at Sony behind the PS4 have not been on top of this, because games do not appear overnight, it took more than a year of planning. When we see the amount of delays now, we can only conclude that someone was not paying attention and we are all paying the price for that.

So what will happen to console gaming next?

I do not pretend to have the answer here, but consider the releases and the marketing we saw on new Sony games, then consider the amount of time Infamous is offering us; what else will we learn after the fact?

In the end, good games might come, but realise that the two anticipated games (Thief and Infamous) are mediocre to fair at best. Sony still has the lead in regard of number of games released, yet, if the next one is found to be mediocre then Microsoft could take the lead in next gen gaming. Let’s not forget that the 360 became a contender because of the games they offered, the tables could turn on Sony with this system before the end of 2014. My personal belief is that Sony could pull through; it just takes some quality daylight (pardon the pun) to make all the difference.

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Sony customers deceived?

It is not a new story. We have seen delay after delay on several titles. It is however time to look at the issue surrounding this. First, the game many people will not care about, but it is one of the largest played franchises. The title is Minecraft and it was said to be a launch day title. It has shown itself too be a massive hit on PC and Xbox360, so the fact that it was going to grace the shores of Sony was good news. It was delayed on the PS3, and when it came just before Christmas it showed that the graphic improvements as we saw the shading on the PS3 it gave us a clear indication that the game on NextGen would be well worth it. It has not come yet and it is now said to be delayed until June 2014. That gives it a delay of 3 quarters. That same delay is now shared with Watchdogs and Driveclub. The game Watchdogs has at least a little amount of excuse as it clearly stated the delay a week before the launch of the PS4. But these delays show a deeper issue. Either Sony marketing is not managing their issues correctly and in fear of desertion are willing to keep the gamers for too long in the dark, or we see a level of miscommunication between console and software houses that should not be acceptable in any way, shape or form. Which is the correct one?

I leave that up to the reader, but consider how this list of delayed games is growing. Witcher 3 was announced for later this year. Now it will not be seen until February 2015. In this case, like with Watchdogs the gamer gets a timely announcement, yet the amount of delays are now adding up and gamers should consider themselves as investors into a new gaming system, yet they get no return on investment. Is that fair?

If we consider the quote “This is the list of games planned to launch for the PlayStation 4 between Day 1 and the end of March 2014” and we see the delays of Oddworld: New ‘n’ Tasty (spring 2014), The Witness (mid 2014) and Wolfenstein: The New Order (may 2014) then you can understand how we should get worried. This all is even worse for Oddworld, which is a revamp of the original PS1 game, now for the PS4, which means that most issues of this game would have been known long before the console came out. So it all adds up. These last few titles are not that much delayed as they were launch window titles, but the delay still counts towards to overall lack of games. Infamous is still on track and Thief got released on time, it is the bad rating of Thief (in my view slightly undeserved) that still ends up having a negative impact, which is not to be ignored.

I must also admit on the other side of the scales that Sony has been trying to offer a level of overkill for the members of PlayStation Plus. They are throwing everything but the kitchen sink in that direction. Even though not all on PS4 (some on PS3), the amount of quality games (including Killzone) that could be freely downloaded must be acknowledged. I think that this is what gives them a little more time for now.

In the end we will see more delays. The Crew (a racing game) is also delayed, but then on all platforms, so it is not just a Sony ‘issue’. So why is this all such a massive issue for gamers?

Consider the ‘advertisement’ we all saw on the game Drive club. Sony has been beating us to death with it and it did look really good. Now, the way it was shown and the fact that it was a launch day title was not just an error. It was in my view a blatant form of intentional misrepresentation. If we consider the path of any game; development-testing-alpha-testing-beta-testing and then the gold master, the fact that a game has 3 quarters delay means that they were in a place long before the alpha stage. This means that it had been known for some time that there was no way to get this game out in time, so how was the ‘demo’ arranged? Consider the ‘implied’ votes on the score in the rolling demo. All this points getting back to ‘utter deception’ show us that the hands of Sony are not clean in this regard either.

So even though I am (and remain for now) a huge Sony fan, we must hold them to account for both their actions and in-actions, if not, then indeed some gamers might consider that the safest move is to move towards the Xbox One (even with the architectural flaws it currently has). In some cases the games have been delayed on both systems, but consider that Titanfall has a 90% rating and as Forza also got rated that high, shows that racing fans can at least get their racing freak on with an Xbox One, something currently not possible on the PS4. Those who have read my other blogs might know that I have been highly criticising against the XB1, I have also stated more than once that a console can only survive if it releases top games. At present the scales of balance are moving away from Sony as the games are more and more getting delayed. This is the lesson that was imprinted into the heads of members of the board of directors of Sony with a sledgehammer when we saw the issues on PS2 and PS3. It seems that they still have not learned this lesson. It is hard to blame them for the failing of other software houses, yet the fact that it is happening again with the PS4 should turn on many red lights in Sony HQ. I reckon it takes one more delayed top title for the PS4 to start making a sales shift and start changing the balance of power for NextGen consoles. No matter what hype some acclaimed ‘experts’ throw at you for 1080i resolution and frame rate. The first is that this level of quality is rarely offered by games, and in the end a good game is a good game, no matter what resolution it runs on. It does not matter if the PS4 shows graphic superiority, not having the games is what stops people buying the console in the first place.

 

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A body blow to gaming

We are about to start Q2 of 2014 and the news is not good for Sony. Thief is about to be seen as below average by several reviewers (a score of 60 from Gamespot at http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/thief-review/1900-6415675/). Now, Thief might be an acquired taste, but its following has been fierce fully loyal. The issues and the ‘good’ looks that were given at the E3 are now getting slammed on several levels by several review sites; in this regard I gave it a score of 75%. I initially gave it 80%, but as the blatant levels of sloppiness became visible after completing the game, the score dwindled a little.

People might think that it does not matter, but consider the game release claims that Sony made for 2014. It only takes up to 4 games under achieving the gamer’s expectations, for a console to lose a massive following. Yes, Sony is at present happy with the fact that 6 million are sold, but how long will that continue when the released games do not hold up to scrutiny?

I personally thought AC4 was a lacking game on several fronts, and thief might have given pressure and serious nervousness to UBI-Soft. This is however no longer the case considering the score Thief got. Yet, they are not out of the woods yet. Watchdogs was initially a first day console game, which is now supposed to be out by the end of Q2. If they do not meet expectations, Sony will enter Q3 with its PS4 having several flops, that is a massively bad result for something that is supposed to save Sony. Before you think I am Sony bashing with some Xbox-One motive, then think again, I willingly choose Sony and I am hoping that they will get their ‘game’ in order, as one more flop could have an majority of ‘console undecided’ people running towards Microsoft’s Xbox-One. When we see quotes like “Thief’s main story ultimately goes nowhere” and “Thief rarely captures the right sense of risk, however, which in turn reduces the sense of reward” should give many gamers cause for concern, especially with an icon title like Thief.

This is in my mind however, the consequence of a larger issue. I have noted it before on several occasions and again I state that the addition of what some laughingly refer to as ‘Business Intelligence‘ to the gaming industry might be seen as the main cause of several failed titles in the last year alone. Whether it was to hatch onto an established branding, because a certain deadline had to be met or because budgetary needs (which is actually a more valid reason), outstripped in the end the legendary status a game could have gotten, is now left with score like ‘average’ or ‘fair’ and many will now try to solve the revenue issues through subscriptions and micro transactions.

So, we could in the near future see the status: “Gaming is dead, long live……whatever!

This is no way for gaming to go down. This is not just about setting up the IP of a brand, or just branding in general; this is about the pure lack of visionaries in gaming!

Is it a fair statement to make, even if it is only my view?

Consider what a game costs, for that we want to see something pretty spectacular, but overall, the value for money is no longer given by the creator, but by an analyst and a marketeer, who both seem to be oblivious to the gaming condition of the gamer. They look at branding, profitability and in the end it will all be about micro transactions.

In the gaming industry, I am a devoted RPG fan. So, I have little interest in HALO, GTA and a few other games, which is fair enough. There are plenty of gamers liking them, but overall, consider how many hours you actually play a game. Will it be worth it? Make no mistake, I do enjoy a decent multiplayer and I have played many many hours on Mass Effect 3 multiplayer mode. In my view it is the best multiplayer experience I have ever had. God of War Ascension is another game where the multiplayer is a great experience. There we see the additional part that these levels are quite unique, so that just adds to it. These games have a certain level of playability which makes multiplayer a delight. Something UBI-Soft never figured out. When I start on level 1, and Assassins Creed (2/3/4) gives me a ranked match where I end up against people from level 51, something is definitely wrong and the fun to play multiplayer is soon diminished. Another mess they did not solve in 4 iterations of the game.

So as we see Sony move forward on PS4, they will depend on good games to remain the top player. Many of the games we expected in Q1 2014 (as mentioned in Nov 2013), have been delayed. That makes for unhappy gamers. Now, in all honesty, every game is likely to have some delay, but when we see a delay of three quarters (Watchdogs) there will be cause for alarm. Now, we see that not just the delay, but the diminished power punch that a disappointing game brings is still a fear on the mind of many. No matter what Sony does, if Titanfall truly delivers on the Xbox-One, then Sony will have a first fear to deal with, because it takes one good game to make a gamer reconsider. That was clearly shown when Metal Gear Solid: Guns of the Patriot was released on the PS3. Even now, 6 years later it can still be regarded as one of the most perfect games ever to be released on the PS3. Here I agree with Gamespot who named the game as ‘technically flawless‘! It sold almost 6 million copies, which is an impressive result, especially as the action adventure is not for everyone. Analysts stated that this game would be the reason for increased console sales, so as high scoring PS4 games remain absent; will Titanfall be a first step changing the direction of gamers? For me it is hard to say. The first worry is that Gamespot had no preview, or review on their site, which is weird as the game will be released in one week time. Titanfall is not my cup of tea, so I have no view one way or the other, yet overall as the next-gen consoles are supposed to be the hot item, the absence of top games on the PS4 will have an impact.

Should you have another view (which is fair enough), then also consider the following, when you go to a site like EB games, with the ‘top’ titles at the top of the screen on the PS4 page, only one is for sale now (Thief) the others are all preorders, is that not a little weird?

Personally I do hope that PS4 will win the console war (I am slightly biased here), but they will need the games to make it work and the next possible top game is still 2 weeks away.

 

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Fifth in a trilogy!

Yes, there is a new PlayStation and it stands to reason that Ubi-soft would be there trying to cash in on a relic item. Yes, it is time to use the Assassins Creed brand to pass of some buccaneer’s game.
First, let’s look at the good part. The graphics! There is no doubt that the graphics are of an entirely different level. This game, in that regard stands out, or perhaps better, the PS4 does. They took Abstergo to another field and I must admit that this part works out. So as we get into the game we see the first Island which is the intro; it shows one small flaw which AC always had when you try to manoeuvre a running person. I reckon that this is just what it is and that is fair enough. So, we see the intro where we climb, where we look and synchronise. Yes, it looks like an Assassin’s Creed game. Now we go into that ruddy Prince of Persia approach and we have to run after another person and of course we miss and we synchronize. The first irritation comes. Now we go towards the sneaking which is fair enough and we slaughter. That is the intro! We now know how to proceed.  I have no issue with this part. It is not the worst part in teaching a player the controls of the game.

We swim to the boat and the next stop is Havana!

So here we need to deal with the graphic people of this game. The intro showed that they were good, but here we have evidence that they cheated! I accuse those graphic designers that they traveled back in time, the used their Handycam to film Havana and then they just rendered it. It looks THAT authentic. It must be said, graphically the AC series never disappointed. This is just way beyond that! Walking through the streets is a joy. We now get the repetition of viewpoints, which in truth is the one repetition I do enjoy. We see groups of dancers that we can hire (that is what they seem to call courtesans in Havana in 1715 apparently) and there are others around. We need to save pirates, to get them to become part of the crew and we need to chase shanties like the pages of an almanac. The one idiotic part I truly hate! At least in this game they are much clearer to see. We see the return of the pigeon nests for assassination jobs. We have seen it all before and there is no new part so far. Beyond the graphics this game is to be regarded as redundant! The stupid part (as I see it) is that if Yves Guillemot had thought this trough (always blame the guy at the top), he could have made it into a legendary pirate game! Veering away from the AC logo, whether it was Abstergo founded or not could have made this a truly great start, now it is a faded repetition at best. The unworthy end of what was once a great brand. I get the issues they have since Watchdogs has been delayed, but this could and should have gone a lot better. So, as I moved through several chapters, I see the missions for what they are, utterly repetitive! Apart from the graphics there is nothing to different this from Assassins Creed 3, which was already a letdown of what was once a great brand.

If I go over all of this, then what was unique has evolved into nothingness. My reasoning in this is? Well, when you try to get all kind of groups into one game, you end up pleasing no one at all. This is what I personally think had happened. Instead of pleasing a group, they wanted to please the AC group, the Prince of Persia group and the slice and dice group.

The reason why this angers me is because this could have been a truly great game (and it currently does NOT deserve the 89 rating Gamespot gave it). Consider this could have been a Pirate RPG. The elements are mostly there. This could have been the true Pirate game that Sid Meier wished for (but was stopped from making due to the technology in the 80’s). There is another side to all this. That side is actually Gamespot. I do not always agree with their ratings, but for the most they are within a certain scope. This rating is way overboard. Perhaps the relentless advertising of this game on Gamespot (whenever you refreshed the browser window) had something to do with it. I am not kidding! For weeks Black Flag was the ONLY trailer we got to see. Perhaps their deck was stacked?

It related to all this because the hype for a fake game had to be maintained (for the shareholders).

What could have been the start of a third line of RPG, one that would show Bethesda that they are not alone in the RPG field, turned out to be slightly less than mediocre. Ubi-soft had turned the coward card (IMHO)! This is likely due to an age where the billion dollar company needs to appease the shareholders (who mostly are clueless on games). That wild step, if they had taken it, might have been proof why Ubi-soft had become so big. And it could have been a legendary launch for the PS4. Yet, no! It had to be bland and repetitive. I reckon that Watchdogs might soon be the last big hit if the game actually delivers on the hype that we were shown. Because from what I saw, Ubi needs a big win in a massive way. However, no matter what, the one team that did truly deliver in this game was the graphic team. They are the only reason that this game stands out at all.

There will be another consequence for them. If the game ‘Thief’ does indeed deliver next march, then those who turned to the AC game because they loved Thief, will walk away from the AC ‘brand’. If that happens, what will be the consequence for Assassins Creed as Ubi-soft did not step up to the plate when they were supposed to do? Time will tell!

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