Tag Archives: Tomb Raider

‘More’ is Awesome

It is an expression we have seen in several places, so when I initially heard that the new Assassins Creed Odyssey was ‘more of the same’, I was not that surprised considering the Ubisoft of the past few years, yet, as I loved the forward propulsion that AC Origin gave us, I was upset enough to keep my eyes out for a decent review and Eurogamer gave that to us (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23CLV1jl9oo). In the first those who do not realise it, Eurogamer is one of the best reviewing channels for games you can find at present. They have been honest and give a decent view from their point of view. It is also interesting to note that each of the reviewers namely Aoife Wilson, Johnny Chiodini (aka Mr Feedbackula), Ian Higton and Chris Bratt have their own likes and dislikes, just like me. I myself am nuts about RPG games, they too have their preferences in gaming. So in this case I got treated to the smooth Irish voice of Aoife Wilson. Let’s face it, when any review comes with an Irish accent, does it not generally sound better?

So the review gives a little bit of a spoiler, but considering that it is merely the start of the game and the fact that the game promises over 100 hours of game play, we can accept that part and the very first thing we see is that even as it is another Assassins Creed, it is no exactly ‘more of the same‘. It is more, a hell of a lot more and even as there are elements of all other games in here, the game is definitely a new behemoth. So even as we are treated to 431 BCE, which by the way this was also the beginning of the Peloponnesian War (I remember that time well), it was a year before Athens was almost completely ravaged by Typhus, and a year after that we got treated to the very first showing of Oedipus Rex, a tragedy like no other. In this the mother forgives him, the father is unlikely to ever do so.

But back to the game. Yes, there was some ‘more of the same’, but mainly only in the graphics, which were outstanding in Origin and outstanding is always good. The video give us a clear setting that the storyline has been given a massive haul over, making it a much larger RPG sandbox setting than ever before. That is my part where I answer Aiofe’s question ‘Does it justify 100 hours of game play?‘ To that I at this point state ‘Yes!‘ The story lines are an important part, and in addition to the other parts it seems like with Tomb Raider, the underwater parts seem to look a lot better. Parts of the review also imply that the game has taken a more tactical side to the game as well. Going after a fort by yourself versus weakening the enemy first makes a lot of sense, so in all this, there is a lot to see. As I see it, it is not ‘More of the same‘, it has become ‘A more evolved and adult approach to a game of such a tactical nature‘. So in all when you look that you are playing a game with 4K (for those with the coins to play in this mode), we see the setting that AC Odyssey is offering a game that remains under $1 an hour, which is by far one of the most rewarding value for money games I have seen for some time and that is worth a lot. It also gives the setting that with two distinct choices (playing as the he or the she), also makes the game an interesting choice to replay, which makes the game even more rewarding in more than one part. If I had to make a pre-release view then it is that Ubisoft is back in adding value to its brand and franchise, which gives us the ‘better late than never’ part and that counts as well.

Those who have read my views on Ubisoft know that I have not been kind to them, but I have always given credit where credit was due and in all this, and in this case Ubisoft should get loads of Credit. If there is one optional part missing (unverified) in all this it will be the setting of the Nekromanteion not being there, what would have been in the Northern boundary of the map. It was where the Temple of Hades was. It might matter as it in this time setting when the site building was erected and it would stay there until the Italians (Romans) decided to burn it down in 167 BC.

I have watched several reviews and I disagree with a few. Some state that this is not a proper AC game, and perhaps this is true as this is centuries before the Creed, is that a bad thing? I would offer that AC Black Flag is even less of an AC game. It is perhaps a new IP and in all this it is a push for an historical RPG game, this is with my love for RPG a great step, for others perhaps less of a nice step. No matter how you feel about the AC part, Odyssey is exactly what the titles promises to deliver. You will embark on an epic journey and when you think that Origin already gave that, think again. The map alone seems to be close to 300% of the previous game and that is impressive when you realise just how big Origin was. So on October 4th give your pet a really big treat, presents and felicitations as it is World Animal Day, because the day after that AC Odyssey is released and there is every chance that you will ignore everything around you for days to come, which would make perfect sense.

So even when we see large changes in this franchise, it is my personal impression that they are all for the better, there is not one part that seems to be negative in this. More options for dialogue, more choices on paths as well as multiple endings. Making the replaying of this game more enjoyable and when you consider that this game was already down to $1 an hour (for some even a lot less) making that 100 hour journey the best epic journey in the history of this franchise. The most honest question you can ask yourself, are you willing to play an RPG? Are you willing to step out of your optional comfort zone? It is my belief that this trip will be one you are extremely unlikely to regret, but in the end only you can answer what you like. what is clear is that the AC franchise has taken a new course, and as it is a pronounced one, it will not be for everyone, I merely expect that it will be the right path for many more players than ever before and that is a good thing, a good game is always a good thing, even if it is not for everyone.

Only a delusional developer makes a game that is for everyone!

If there is one part that I will miss, it will be the one hit kill. Historically speaking, sneaking up to a person and shove a spear through the back of its skull tends to be fatal, there has never been an exception to that, not even when you sneak up to an ego driven empty headed politician. They all tend to keel over, curl their toes and start their: ‘I am dead now!‘ procedure. So that part I will miss, even if there is no more hidden blade.

So one optional non positive part against close to a dozen positive parts, how can any player pass it up? Well that will be fair, the non RPG lovers, but for that group there are plenty of other games to play. No matter how you view it all this will be an amazing trip, so choose, decide and optionally enjoy this game. I expect this game to get an 88%-97% rating, that whilst the RPG lover is likely to give it a 92%-99% rating (only Zeus, Poseidon and Hades get 100%), Leonidas and all everyone else will have to live with a 99% rating.

As far as I can ascertain at present, my official response will be: ‘Well Done Ubisoft!

 

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Taught by the past

There will always be one TV channel that remains in my heart. It does not matter how they go, what series they have and whether they stop existing. They had one thing right, the one thing above it all was their slogan ‘the story is everything‘, it still reverberates in my heart, and for years (when I had cable) they proved that they understood their own premise. The story was indeed everything and they stood by it. It should be the cornerstone in entertainment, but it is not (for some). Some have a setting that is nowhere near there. It does not matter how they go that journey, how they pass the time in their product, they forgot that one truth that makes all the difference.

This takes us to Eidos. I had a good connection there for the longest time, so when I got an early copy in the summer of 1996 to take a look at some game called Tomb Raider I had no idea what I was in for. I loved it, apart from the part that the hero was a woman, the game was new, it was different and we all wanted more, that would be delivered a little over a year alter and for the most we were all hooked, not merely because of Lara, little Lara, but the setting from the first to the second became a much larger leap. Even as the story for both was not the greatest, the levels, the design and the challenges made up for that. Over time we saw that the story become much more important and as we went through the stages, on PlayStation, PC, PlayStation 2, Dreamcast, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One the story evolved and it became to some degree a real story. In all this there was an evolution (to some degree). Now we are confronted with ‘Tomb Raider – makes Lara Croft look boring‘. The Guardian gives us (at https://www.theguardian.com/games/2018/sep/10/shadow-of-the-tomb-raider-review-lara-croft) “This game revels in its own beauty, but the plot collapses under the slightest scrutiny“, now first the important part. I did not play it myself, but I saw a large amount of videos. First the bad part, a few games back. When the definitive version on PS4 was launched, I became very upset. Not only was the game shallow, too easy (on hard) and way too small. It became the first game I ever returned to the shop. I had finished the game in hard mode under 10 hours. It was perhaps one of the most upsetting acts I ever did, mainly because my gaming experience with Lara Croft over 4 systems had been so good. When we look deeper into that game we see something that was perfectly placed on an island, the setting could have propelled in many direction and the graphics were amazing, even now I look back (in my mind) to that level when you arrive near the ocean and you see that large tugboat in the sea, I need to acknowledge that graphically it was an amazing feat, so when we see the setting where we could have had at least 20 hours of additional play, but the makers overlooked or ignored that opportunity. In a gaming sidestep, I realised the same with Assassins Creed Rogue, the remastered edition. What could have been nice story to side missions ended up being merely the setting of running to a marker and press the dig button or simply violently resolve it. All opportunities missed (in that case) by Ubisoft. So back to Lara, after that disappointing episode, I decided to give the second game a miss, something I partially regret now, because the third game (for hat I saw was a pretty amazing result). The graphics were still really good, yet the story is, as I saw it better and they took effort with the stealth part. A much better game overall (comparing to the first relaunched PS4 game). I liked Lucy O’Brien’s review in IGN giving us the parts that count (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdEfROL2Wx8). If there is one part that I personally do not like is the use of ‘scripted moments‘. I get it that it essentially needs to be there (especially in the introduction), but in the end, the best game does not require scripted events, or requires them to be minimised to the biggest possible degree. Even as the stories are better, we need to address the Guardian verdict. We see the first quote “Shadow of the Tomb Raider nails the former, with sumptuous South American locations to climb, dive and rappel around, ranging from ancient Inca cities and missionary crypts to modern-day Peruvian jungles and towns. But it does Lara a disservice, turning her into a deadly mud-camouflaged jungle warrior without much interesting to say, pushed along by a plot that’s more concerned with prophecies and supernatural artefacts than with its main character“, so was that not always the case? I personally like the entire stealth upgrade, but is that just me? It might be, I was merely in that setting of trying to figure parts out. Yet I saw too many references towards Uncharted and Far Cry 5, which makes sense and it is not a bad thing, yet when we look back at what was and what should be, going through the other titles is not what I hoped for. Still Tomb Raider for all I saw remains Tomb Raider, so why did the Guardian give me that jump?

There were two parts in that. The first was: “Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s series of amazing places is held together by a plot that collapses under the slightest scrutiny. The narrative is an incoherent mess that goes well beyond the usual action movie/video game suspension of disbelief” and “when Lara shows up in an undisturbed native settlement filled with people who have somehow avoided the outside world for hundreds of years, is she instantly welcomed into their midst and put to work resolving their disputes? How does she communicate fluently with them? At first, Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s narrative inconsistencies are ignorable, but with every new convenient riddle or magical artefact, pointless revelation or paper-thin character, my tolerance for nonsense wore thinner“. Now, I need to tell you that I do not always agree with the assessment of the reviewer Keza MacDonald, yet that level of disagreement is more about our preference for gaming. Keza is a good reviewer, hence her view matters to me, and I have absolutely no issue accepting her view on the Tomb Raider game. I like her two issues as I saw a similar setting as an optional solution towards Watch Dogs 3. Just like I designed what might optionally become Elder Scrolls VII (6 is being made now). My setting for my version of a new Elder scrolls would have been three times the size of Skyrim with optional story lines worth 150-200 hours of gameplay. In addition, if possible I could pull it off with Watch Dogs 3 as well. This is where the FX part comes in, the story is indeed everything!

So if I can add 100% to the first PS4 Tomb Raider, which merely took me an hour or so to come up with, why can some designers not do a much better job? In case of the new Tomb Raider, we see the optional shortage, but we also see that all the Far Cry games (3 and later) gave us similar parts and so did Far Cry Primal, and the less said on the story failings of Assassins Creed (except for Origin and optionally Odyssee) the better.

The setting is extremely important, as the current Shadow of the Tomb Raider could have been 90% instead of the 81% that Metacritic gives it now, and if we translate that to the three stars Keza rating, it would translate to an optional 70% at best. This gets us back to the story is everything, when we see that this translates to an optional 15%-25% more, ignoring that element is just too weird. It is to some extent the one element that Games and movies have in common. So if we translate that to the now, we see that the right story makes the larger impact. Merely see Dev Patel in Hotel Mumbai, rated by IMDB at 93% to see how the right story makes for the impact. This translates to games as well, the better the story, the better the game. It is visible on nearly every level. Yet, that is not the only part in Tomb Raider and We see the goods on the negative side of the game as Keza gives it to us with: “Salvaged outfits for Lara offer meaningless bonuses (“gain more experience for assault kills”), crafting materials are so plentiful that they are not an exciting reward, and new skills or weapons are seldom used. Oddly, items such as lockpicks that open up new treasure-hunting possibilities are sold by merchants, not earned through exploration. It is very weird that so much of this optional content is incorporated so badly“, as well as “The places Lara visits and the things that she does, especially when she doesn’t have a gun in her hands, are beautiful and entertaining. But it lacks a coherent plot or creative vision to hold it all together, and the opportunity to make an interesting character out of Lara Croft is squandered“, that does grasp the heart in a not so good way and it matters a parts could have been dealt with in a better story setting and parts would never have been better. That negative part is exactly the impact that Ubisoft missed with AC Rogue. There we run for Viking swords, crosses on the map, opening bars with thugs, merely points to run to, yet the ‘rescuing’ of a bar from thugs could have been the start of a side quest line and in all this, much more could have been reached, when one leads to the other, instead of running over the island, from chest to chest, glitch to glitch and sometimes doing a Prince of Persia for some pirate shanty, meaningless actions that could have been a dimension all by itself in the game, all options lost and even as both franchises have amazing graphics, we see that this alone does not hold a game. I wonder how many developers are revisiting the current setting of their game that is in development, because if they are not then it does not matter to anyone how many games are being released between now and December 2019. If they do not up the ante for their own game, they will merely release something that is good, not great and it sits on the shelf until the game retail store has a large sale and the game is up for grabs at 50% or less, or people merely wait for one of the producers to add it to the ‘for free’ subscription monthly download bonus, what a waste! Merely because the simplest of all lessons was ignored by too many; It all starts with a good story, not with ‘Lara needs to look cool (or different) in the jungle, how can we do that?‘, or ‘Where is the next Assassins Creed story? When have we not yet been?

 

That is the part given to us in complete contrast when we realise that with the end of God of War we were treated to: [CENSORED TEXT REDACTING SPOILERS]. When I saw that unfold on my screen, my jaw dropped on the floor. It was not merely some twist, it was the setting for at least two more games in a way I never saw coming and I do remember my Nordic mythology. It was brilliant, indeed the story was everything and Santa Monica Studio’s treated us to the perfect meal (listening to Bear McCreary was an added desert that is just too surreal).

In the end, I know that I am a goof, I am creative and I can weave a tale like no one in my mind at the speed of the Deep Blue Super Mainframe, but overall, I cannot fathom why the game makers are not better at this, I never got that, because until lately I never thought I was on their level, yet recently I was shown (confirmed by a few sources) that I am on their level and even higher, but I am not a programmer. So when I see the lack of a storyline, I merely get sad, when opportunities are missed I get frustrated and when too much scripted issues show up, I tend to get angry. I do get the fact that some part requires scripted events. A certain boss fight, the introduction to one is the setting that cannot remains unscripted, yet at times it is too scripted deflating the tense moments it had been built to and the first PS4 Lara Croft had that flaw too much (as well as the shortness of the game).

So how can they do it better? Well this is seen in several clips in Shadow of the Tomb Raider and you might have missed them. Consider an optional reality, a reality we missed in the Far Cry, Assassins Creed and other games. You pick them off one at a time, I get that part. What I do not get is that when you are on a patrol and You are in a team, when one falls away their nerves are up (like in the Arkham games), yet in the earlier games, often enough they relax and go to their old ‘relaxed’ setting. In reality, my nerves would be in the stratosphere, so there will be no lapse and even as you can get the drop on others, only the first one is ‘free’, the others need to be close to perfect or all hell breaks loose. That part was never learned correctly, not in one decade of stealth gaming, weird is it not? OK, Far Cry did get that part right (to some degree). And even as the setting evolves over an act, a larger level or a chapter in the storyline, we see that some opponents are harder, yet the overall setting no longer gets to be more complex, which is also weird. It seems to me that only Far Cry 3 got that part better the most other games and here too Lara had her lesson to learn, or better stated her opponents. So even as we see her take out the enemy, in most cases when other vanished nerves did not get that much bothered, a missed opportunity.

Even if this is the optional end of Lara Croft, we see that there was a lot more to be had and it was missed. Will that lesson not be learned? The story is everything, but how to set the story properly in the frame of it all. That part will remain a challenge and solving it, or finding some level of a better solution will aid the game makers as well as the player, a win-win for all. In this, the loss is already there, but not setting the in-game bar higher, we see what looks really well is merely a 70% game, yet with the insight that should have been there, it could have been a 90% game which makes me sad. Yet I do acknowledge is that this game is a good game, everything shows that there is positive growth in several places and in many ways (especially the underwater parts, they were awesome), yet I feel that it is steps short of being a great game, whilst it could have been a great game. It is hard to put my finger on it without playing the game through until the end, but all reviews do support my view, the story could have been better making it overall better, and this game is not the only one that had that ‘flaw’.

So, as we agree that the past is a good tutor we see that partially the past is used to make this game better, that is good, some of the levels and the natural view that these levels seem to give is always good and this game got to be better at it and that matters too. In the end, on everything I faced, I regard this to be a 80%-85% game, whilst I feel that the setting and upgrade of the game would have made it a 90% game at least, and they should have done better than I would have been able to be and that makes me sad, especially as it might be the end of the Tomb Raider games for now. It will not ever be the death of the Franchise; it is in comparison very much a better game than that first relaunched game and several other Lara titles, which is a good thing. In my personal views, after seeing the play parts, seeing the reviews and watching the cut scenes, I get to the end conclusion that this is not the game to buy on day one, especially with Spiderman PS4 available, yet on special, Christmas sales and at discount sales? Yes! At that point it will definitely be my game of choice.

What a difference a stronger story makes.

I wonder if the makers will catch up to that part down the line, because higher ratings turns that, down the track to buy outright and in the end, that is still the name of the game in gaming, and not merely gaming. There is in my view every indication that the entire Chris Pine mess (OK, mess is a perhaps too strong a word), is not entirely about the money (what some sources indicated), I believe that the story is part of that too. Do you think that some starts would have given any ‘eff’ (censored) on money if they had the chance of becoming a main player in The Usual Suspects, or Silence of the Lambs? You have got to be kidding!

Yes, you want some decent remuneration. When you are a lead player in MI-Fallout, costing $178M to make, whilst the return at present is $726,386,554, one would hope that their income is slightly better than $73,559 for their part. If you are an extra, then you need to shut up, when you carry the family name Cruise, Cavill, or Pegg the amount should be larger (I have no idea what they are making, and I personally do not care either). Yet if the story would have been a legendary one, would you care? That is the part that matters in the long run, because over time, we will forget the MI titles, however we will forever remember titles like Ghandi and The Usual Suspects and that can drive a career (especially in the beginning as well). Star Trek showed in the Movie Star Trek Beyond that it did not consider that part too strong (even as I enjoyed watching it, and it had fresh looks), it did fall short of Star Trek Into Darkness and that was a shame. I have no illusions, getting to the Wrath of Khan levels is not to be expected, yet the relaunch in 2009 did pull it off (based on Rotten Tomatoes), so in that it had options and started to fall flat after that, I believe that this is also part of the decision for some actors to feel worried, Star Trek (2009) opened door, yet I personally believe that Beyond started to close doors, even with Idris Elba upping the ante by a decent amount, also in my personal view largely the reason it got an 85% rating and not an 80% rating. So when the actor is the pillar and not the story, we see a much larger flaw in all this and even as I do have idea’s to fix it, they will need a specific person to fix that for them over two movies (as I see it) and get the rating back to 94%, the number that the 2009 movie pulled off. The question is can they afford him and more important, are they willing to stick their necks out? In my personal view they have the option of doubling the 2009 box office revenue twice over and with two movies the overall cost goes down as well making it even more appealing, but in the end, their saviour will not be special effects or merely a good cast, it will be the story, it will be everything. Are people like JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof willing to make that $250M splurge? In the end it remains an actual risk whether that $250M becomes $1.3B (hopefully better), and it the one factor is the one writer who can pull it off. It has never been done in any Sci-Fi ever, making it not merely novel, if it does work, will it be the game changer that brings 1,635% of cost (Jurassic Park), or an Iron Man 2 giving a mere 312%? Yet, what if we consider that it is like Gravity, ‘only’ 716%, yet regarded as the 4# best Science fiction movies of all time, would you still not do it?

How strong is the story in all that? I personally remain with the faith that the story will forever be everything, yet when it is all about the box office and $1 billion versus $600 million, what path would you take? In this games and movies are more alike than not; making it a fascinating setting, but also a very personal, and set on one’s own perspective. It is the ultimate objective versus subjective view and I am not sure what the best path is for either game or movie, making the setting for a movie of gaming score harder, not correct or incorrect, merely harder.

 

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They did what?

Newsweek is bringing out the news, news that had me rattled. The story (at https://www.newsweek.com/saudi-arabia-bans-47-popular-video-games-general-commission-audio-visual-1028013) gives us ‘Saudi Arabia bans 47 popular video games including ‘Assassins Creed,’ ‘Deadpool’ And ‘Final Fantasy’‘. For a moment I could not fathom why video games would be banned. Now, even as Deadpool is unlikely to be my choice of game ever. It does have a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ approach to gaming, which gives it a positive flair. Yet overall, even as I loved the movies, I never read the comic books, so there is a gap there and I reckon that the comic book fans are most likely the ones who would want the game.

So, I was intrigued to learn what the reasons were. The article merely gives me “The kingdom’s General Commission for Audio-Visual Media said Monday that 47 games will be banned for violating rules and regulations“, pretty much all the media gives the same setting some of them give other titles, even though as far as I could tell, none gave the full list. All of them set the stage that the game ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘ is the starting point for the decision involved. Now, I do get the fact that censorship remains strong in Saudi Arabia, the fact that this is the first year that the cinemas are open, the movies are still all to be screened before allowed in the cinema.

The National (at https://www.thenational.ae/world/gcc/after-suicide-in-saudi-arabia-parents-urged-to-do-more-to-curb-gaming-effects-1.746328) had another side in all this. Here we see one of the Saudi fathers in question giving us: “A Saudi father has blamed the suicide of his 12-year-old son on an online game that he said “broke the spirit” of his child. But therapists and gaming experts say the onus is on parents to step in“, I feel sorry for the loss of that father and the other parents. Yet in this part, even as a gamer and gaming expert for decades, I do not agree with the response. Yes, parents need to step in at time, yet the setting given against that father is unrealistic. You see, for a large portion of the world, gaming is life. Let me explain that, so that you do not get the wrong idea. Our lives are bettered through social interaction, at times we also need our own space to unwind, to relax and let the brain work things out. Gaming allows for all that. The multiplayer games allow friends and schoolmates to compete and sometimes cooperate in games like Fortnite and online RPG’s. By ourselves we can escape our place for a little while and seek comfort elsewhere. I myself can lose myself for hours in Minecraft by myself and feel really awesome after an hour or so, games have that ability. The nice part of Minecraft is that you can play it at times without even thinking, a version of virtual Lego that allows you to create, explore as well as destroy spiders and skeletons. Now with the ocean world addition the game just become more than twice the size it already was. It is great to game at times. All these games are positive reinforcements, no matter what the game is. You might be scared of every corner in Bloodborne; you might see the cliffs and not know the next move like a Tomb Raider should, or sneak through the corridors removing the henchmen of the Arkham Knight. None of them are negative against you and for the most they are positive parts. Even in Assassins Creed where you are correcting great injustice through killing mind you. You are one against an army! It is a challenge and at times even more. The cultural references and the additional scenes in Assassins Creed Origin were overwhelming, making it a learning experience as well.

In the darkness there are monsters

Yes, there are monsters too; in this case it is one person. It is Philipp Budeikin. The information on him is sketchy to an extent. He is a former psychology student who was expelled from his university for reasons I have not found yet. According to his own claims he invented the game in 2013. In more than one source we (BBC was one of them) he gives it to the press that his intention was to cleanse society by pushing persons to suicide whom he deemed as having no value, they were he referred to as “biological waste”. This is new; this is the first time where someone with psychological skills was out to make children destroy their own life. The game known as the ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘, the game allegedly instructs challengers to participate in a series of strange and disturbing challenges. These can include live streaming self-harm and staying up late to watch horror movies (source: The New Arab). The challenges are stated to grow increasingly extreme, until they are reportedly instructed to kill themselves as part of the 50th and final challenge. Apart from any person doing that, or being willing to do that. The fact that someone is willing to go this path (I refer to the game maker) is just weird and insane. In addition, the fact that this person was intentionally and knowingly targeting vulnerable people and the fact he is merely facing 3 years in jail is equally an issue. I will be the first one to sign any petition to ban this game for life on a global scale. This is not about the freedom of expression; this is not about freedom of speech. This is about protecting children! I have seen weird games in my lifetime. The most offensive game I saw was on the Commodore-64 in the late 80’s. It was a game called ‘Paki bang’, an offensive game where you have to shoot Pakistani’s. You got 1 point for every Pakistani you shot and -1000 for every Caucasian. It was offensive and I walked away within a minute, a game with absolutely no redeeming values, little did I know how bad could turn to worse. In my life, the setting where children are intentionally targeted by someone with psychological skills is just too unnatural; the setting clearly makes Philipp Budeikin “biological waste”, as he states the value himself. I do like and agree with the response that we see in The National. With “Omar Sharif, owner of Geeky Lizard, a gaming community and store in Dubai states: “But it’s the job of parents to make sure that kids are engaging in healthy online habits”“, I believe that to be a truth, online has many positive sides, but it has negative sides too. Parents need to be aware what their children are up to, it might not make sense at times to parents, but there is a difference between kids shouting at their friends in competition and collaboration in a game, against the setting that they are given a challenge to physically and emotionally harming themselves. We can argue that children do not always realise this, but the setting of protecting ourselves form harm is coded in our DNA, we tend to not act in self harm, the fact that ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘ is stripping away these defences is an issue and the ‘defence’ given by some with “But therapists and gaming experts say the onus is on parents to step in” is not one that I can agree with. The fact that this ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘ is not hunted down on every server by government and hackers alike is much larger issue. This setting is so unnatural that parents would not have been ready. We all should have stepped up and made sure that any server having this software got hacked and all its data removed any way possible.

In the end, the Saudi government will need to make another ruling here, it might not be immediate, but in the long run it is perhaps essential to consider the reason for any games banned other than ‘Blue Whale Challenge‘. In the end, we need to realise that Saudi Arabia has strict rules on what is allowed and the event that caused the death of two children was the one step that caused a clamp down on certain matters. Saudi Arabia has a sovereign right here. Gamers might not like it, but it is a reality. Even as we might not agree with the verdict on nearly all but one game getting the “Saudi Arabia today banned dozens of video games that it says lead children to harm themselves” label of non-approval.

Time will tell on how things evolve, in the end, we need to realise that it is a list of 47, whilst most consoles have hundreds of titles that were not banned, let’s make sure that we do not forget that part of the equation either.

In other gaming news

The predictions I have given in the past regarding Butterfingers Microsoft versus Eagerly Innovating Nintendo is taking a stronger turn, unofficial numbers (and not from a reliable source I must add) have implied the setting that Nintendo has now approached the 2/3rd marker. It is about to pass (or has just passed) the line where since the release of the Nintendo Switch (March 2017) now equaled two thirds of all the Microsoft Xbox One sold in its life cycle (since November 2013). In less than 18 months it has reached the speculated 2/3rd marker (It is hard to be precise as Microsoft is no longer releasing total consoles sold). It might be because the ‘most powerful console in the world‘ is getting surpassed by the weakest one, but that would be speculation on my side. I see it as the price for being short sighted and narrow minded, not to mention the inability to listen to their customers. 3 elements that became the alleged cause on a lessened revenue path for ‘the most powerful console in the world’.

That moment is still important, it is the clear message that it is all about playing the game and Microsoft has not been doing that. Even as Forbes gave us merely 4 days ago “Microsoft continues to surprise us with strong support for backwards compatibility and an equally remarkable offering with its subscription Xbox Games Pass as it quickly becomes the Netflix of video games” (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2018/07/14/xbox-one-vs-ps4-vs-nintendo-switch-the-state-of-the-console-wars-in-2018/#21fbe2571a8e), yet it is interesting that Forbes seems to be so protective of Microsoft, ignoring that the ‘the Netflix of video games‘ does so with a massively inferior storage system. It talks hard against Sony (validly I might add), and acknowledges the ‘Nintendo has had a remarkable resurgence‘ with the added ‘but investors are still spooked about the system‘, is that not interesting on how soft Forbes is on Microsoft? so as we get ‘will investors ever give Nintendo a break?‘, which might be a valid statement, yet it is not properly set in the dimension against the Microsoft failures (four times over), as well as ‘and will Sony stop being such sore winners?‘, which is a fair call, yet the question is how many are truly hurt by no cross playing? In the past it was never an option and we all wanted it, Sony might not be ready on a few levels, but the Sony remark is still valid, correct and acceptable, so why be so soft on Microsoft, because they are getting a beating from Nintendo? I do not recall such sentimental considerations when Microsoft Word took WordPerfect to an abattoir and gutted it completely. It was not about consideration then, so why is it now?

I am still uncertain whether Nintendo Switch will surpass Microsoft before New Year’s evening this year. The delay of 2-3 big titles are largely the cause of that, yet in light of the amount of games released, there is good cause for joy around Christmas time for Nintendo. At that point it does not really matter whether the Xbox One life cycle sales gets surpassed no sooner than Q1 2019. What matters is that gamers get to play games, perhaps it will wake up the board of directors of Microsoft to rethink their choices on all the times that they fumbled the ball, because one fumble was enough to end a console in the past (with the exception of the Sega Dreamcast, they lost because Sony was willing to be the marketeer with deadly intent). Or perhaps the fact that Microsoft advertises in Forbes? I might be speculating on the three steps on a certain Wi-Fi enabled print ad, but that does not take away the setting that we see the valid existence of ‘its subscription Xbox Games Pass‘. For me that setting comes across as someone telling a leprechaun to go screw an elephant, to which the leprechaun responds: ‘with what?

Having a small drive tends to be not so memorable. #PunIntended

 

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The choice of a new religion

The Guardian had an interesting article yesterday by none other than Alex Hern. He and I look towards the gaming world in very different ways, it does not make him wrong and it does not make my view right. We have at times different views on things. That is the wonderful world of gaming, it is one of the few fields where the approach to any solution tends to be almost artistic, many views, none the same can still warrant true correctness or success. In ‘Apple wants the Apple TV to be a games console. But can it be trusted?‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/sep/12/apple-tv-games-console-can-it-be-trusted), which is a very true piece. The subtitle states ‘Apple would like to see its new set-top box become the next Nintendo Wii. But it’s questionable whether the company really understands gaming‘, which is as true as it gets. I have been ‘connected’ to Apple systems in one way or another since 1990. One thing from the very start is that the Apple systems were always ahead in many ways, even in artistic ways, yet true gaming was never supported to the extent it should have been. One of my very first freelance jobs was to take a look at ‘Balance of Power’ (by Mindscape), I ended up checking it on the Mac as well as the Amiga. Another one was Shadowgate by the same makers. Even though these games were always worshipped, but on the Mac they seemed to be on the side, accepted as in existence, but never truly part of the ‘Apple’ environment accepted. It is hard to get it into words. You would have had to be there to understand it.

The quote “The problem is that games are treated as just another type of app by the company – albeit a very profitable type. The games store, for instance, is organised in exactly the same way as the rest of the app store, with prominence given to a few select apps and then three charts of top-selling paid games, most-downloaded free games, and “top grossing games”“, helps here. It is like a bunch of economists see games in the spreadsheet as deep green and those economists really like deep green (as in profit). Yet games is a lot more than numbers (something Ubisoft has an issue with too). To see Apple people look at games and advice their users on is like going to your accountant for sex guidance. That person gets off on spreadsheets and a balance books, for many people not the orgasmic solutions to embrace. Yet there is also a side where I have to disagree on.

Part one is “Similarly, in the newly-released guidelines for Apple TV apps, the company reveals that “the maximum size of an Apple TV app is limited to 200MB”, with no persistent local storage. In other words, apps must be lean, and they must download everything they show from the cloud“, part two is “The top-tier consoles right now ship their games on Blu-ray discs, which store at least 25GB and can rise to 128GB per disc (twice the total storage of the highest-capacity Apple TV“. Now, Alex speaks the truth and he is 100% correct. My issue is that quote 2 implies (he never really states it anything in that way) that size makes the game, that is wrong. Still there is a truth here. 200Mb is nowhere near enough for any decent game. If we look at previous games, like Metroid Prime on the GameCube, that game exceeds the 200Mb. Many games from the PC could get close to the 200Mb, but will in all likelihood exceed that part.

In addition, the statement “In other words, apps must be lean, and they must download everything they show from the cloud“, which now implies that we are all dependent on quality connection. A property that is even debatable in parts of Western Europe, the US, Canada and Australia. For Apple it must be good to know that at least Scandinavia and its 18 million people will see the bulk of Apple TV gaming. The second issue is “Unlike PC games, consoles have always been fairly locked down by the platform manufacturers. In a way, it’s “no sex, no drugs, only rock and roll” attitude is merely replicating the same approach that Nintendo has emphasised for years in its efforts to keep its games consoles family friendly“. Now I am all for family friendly games, yet some people want more than Mario Kart. Some want to play the master Sergeant (HALO). Some want to be in the wasteland (Fallout) or they want to sneak their ways around a city (Thief). Many of these games would never be allowed, with a massive portion of the gamers being 21+, they end up being nothing more than a nuisance to Nintendo and without a massive arsenal of IP that will not happen any day soon.

It is the final quote that is concern as well as the source of howl of deriving laughter “But its success as a games console would be handing yet more control of the medium to a company which fundamentally looks down on games and gaming. And that should concern anyone who likes to play“, wasting this level of resources on a system with no expertise on quality gaming will put a dent in the Apple coffers, in addition, once rejected by gamers, those at the helm will be forced to take a harsh look at their choices and their considerations. It seems that so far in new gaming only Elite Dangerous made it. If the iMac 5K would have one additional hardware update. If they had something in equal or exceeding the Radeon R9 295X2, the system would become something to behold, not just with Elite Dangerous, but in addition with games like No Man’s Sky (if it ever gets here). The iMac would be an option, the Apple TV is clearly not that option, beyond Minecraft there is not a lot that plays on the Apple TV. So do I disagree with Alex?

Actually no! When we consider his quote “Despite my concerns, there is the chance that the Apple TV could be good for gaming“, it connects to my thoughts that good gaming is not about the size (well not completely). Consider that some of the games that were a massive success on the Commodore 64, the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST can still be the games in the new generation systems like the Apple TV. The games by Sid Meier, games like seven cities of gold, some of the legends like Lemmings, Dune 2 (Command and Conquer), pretty much most of the games Peter Molyneux made (including Dungeon keeper), there are loads of other games. The opposite is also true, now we can get a pirates game Sid Meier could never offer when he did because technology stopped him. In equal measure quality gaming has dwindled as there are no limitations, so that game designers are no longer trying to squeeze the maximum out of a console. Tomb Raider is an example here. When we consider that Apple TV could get a market, whilst the hard core end games on consoles and PC remains, I state ‘Yes’, that is a definite option. Yet Alex does illustrate a side of Apple that the foundation of Apple should be ‘concerned’ with. “If you want to criticise a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical App. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store”, in all fairness there should be space for that approach, but it will hinder your business. You see, the guidelines at 15.1 state “Apps portraying realistic images of people or animals being killed or maimed, shot, stabbed, tortured or injured will be rejected“, which is nice but that pretty much sums up almost every game ever made, including New Zealand Story, where the little Kiwi loses health when he touches a spike. 15.3 makes any WW2 game a non-starter, unless Apple insists that Nazi Germany was never a real government where my response becomes: ‘good luck with that one!’

So, even though we can accept that guidelines are needed to keep certain groups (read children) free to wander on the app store selecting games. I get that, but as I stated before, it limits the Apple TV to the realm of Nintendo who already has a massive grip on its user base through several means, why would Apple TV wander in that field? It almost reads like Apple wants to add to the foundation of a failed system. The idea that was a write off in 2007, regarding a big fat fail in 2010, suddenly got the title ‘How Apple’s biggest failure could be one of its greatest accomplishments‘ in 2014 (at http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/saving-apple-tv-think-different/) we see: “Apple has a chance here to beat its competitors to the punch, first and foremost, by making sure that you can play every significant type of video file type that Apple TV doesn’t offer now. This will broaden the range of apps the device can support, and ensure they never have an issue like they did with Hulu again. They would also be wise to create a browser for the device, and to let users access its hard drive“, which is true, yet the article reads like a marketing approach to ‘new’ options for Apple TV and now a year later we see the games ploy. Is it truly about that, or is there a fear within Apple that they are being passed by, passed by those who had a clear goal and by growing in any direction they get to hold onto non-write-off a little longer.

I will let you decide on the parts that are a given, but are they truly a given? I must warn my own view that it is tainted and also clouded. There is a view that comes from true gaming and as such Apple TV does not add up to much, yet what is small can grow and as I stated, let true innovation grow through limitations. It gave us true pearls on three generations of consoles, innovations that seem to be missing in NextGen. Yes, there is still innovation, but not to the extent there was in the past. The idea that Apple starts it up again is partially pleasing. Pleasing because that is the one part that have been downplayed by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo to the larger extent, if you doubt that, then look at how many independent productions made it to consoles in the past. The fact that this year is a lot more about independents is not a given, it is a fab and no guarantee exists that independents will make it through in 2016 and 2017.

That is the part where Apple could grow, you see I personally believe that the next 12 years will be all about the small innovators. As larger players have become vultures, eating the small ones and carrion eaters as they devour their brands in the insane vision that growth comes from interactive innovation, large jumps are ignored. You only need to see the success of Markus the Notch and Minecraft to see that I am right. Will Sean Murray be the next one to show this? David Braben is on the right track to do so too and they are not alone. Even though Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is not likely to be the success others are becoming, the truth is that this game is innovative. Even though in respect to my Tomb Raider view that 10 hours of game play is not acceptable, it would be equally unacceptable to see a 6 hour story as a good thing (source: YouTube). Yet, it is a story and the challenge as such is too small. You only need to look back at the game Portal (by Rob Swigart) to see something a lot larger, even though not in an open world environment, the result as well as the story was truly unique. That does not make the game a failure or inferior, yet the truth remains that the challenge needs an upgrade. Too small, yet remains a true innovation compared what is out there. In all this my own perception is an issue for discussion too. Where is it a given that a 10 hour game is insufficient? I base it on past play and play that some games give, as such 10 hours of gaming just doesn’t hack it neither does 6 hours. Yet all this started with a new religion, one of gaming. not the worship of a controller, or the divination of a system, but the choice of what we believe is to be an open direction, a choice of innovation, because without innovation gaming seizes to survive and we get iteration of a given, in the artsy world gaming exists in, that part can never be allowed to remain in iteration. This is one of the core reasons why the iteration of Assassins Creed, the iteration of Lara Croft the raider of Tombs and Call of Duty will simmer down, will cease to be the cash cows they once were.

The future is all about true innovation in gaming, in that Apple TV could have a space if it opens the doors to independent developers. When we consider the iPad, it has had a nice collection of games and some are truly innovative, in all that IOS has a place and the Apple TV could bring it to the big screen (and I do mean on your TV). In the final part, I agree with Alex for the most, except for the part “a company which fundamentally looks down on games and gaming“. I am not certain it does. It seems to have an approach not unlike Nintendo. Do we look down on them? The question does remain when we see gaming as a religion. It could be the one religion that should be without a bible, which is fair enough, but what about the 10 commandments? Should we not consider some guidelines? Personally I state no, but then again, I started in a world where gaming was born, where it evolved. In all this gaming can evolve within any limited system (consider the 16KB VIC-20), as such any system can bring the joy of gaming, we only need to consider where we take gaming. Nintendo took a direction, there is nothing stopping from Apple taking it in the same direction. In my mind, it should be now and forever about innovation, because that is what draws us to a new game. Consider how Elemental Kingdoms took the concept of CCG and gave it a digital evolution, that is just one of many options, I hope many that are yet unemployed and it awaits the next visionary to create that path.

Who? That is up to the developer that dares to dream and make it reality.

 

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Wakey, Wakey

Finally someone in the Guardian tech section seemed to have gotten a clue, the title ‘Video games have a diversity problem that runs deeper than race or gender‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/sep/10/video-games-diversity-problem-runs-deeper-than-race-gender)makes an attempt to scratch a surface that many gamers knew and until recently I was nearly the only one trying to break it to the audience. So happy hurray hurray to “a games industry insider with years of experience in a variety of studios. They wish to remain anonymous“, a singular person hiding in plurality! The quote “I don’t really care if you put a female avatar into Assassins Creed” is interesting, but also extremely wrong. Not for political correctness reasons, in that regard I can be even more politically incorrect than an ecstasy head shagging a crack prostitute in the main chambers of the House of Lords. No, this is all about innovative gaming, a female character could change the field and the quote is part of the problem as I will illustrate soon.

It is the quote “The problem of marginalisation in games development isn’t just about women, or people from different religious or ethnic backgrounds, it’s about entire genres. Marginalisation is happening in the very fabric of the design process, and this is just as damaging to the health of the industry and its ability to hold our attention” that gives a pause, because I have stated part of this for well over 2 years. You see, when Ubisoft started to claim the release of an Assassins Creed every year, which I still see as the beginning of the end for Ubisoft. They show a nice face, their books might seem nice, yet overall they have been lucky with over 50% now based on the digital channel. Yet, there is also cause for concern, first the Division is delayed again until 2016 (Q1), which if it is truly a good game will still rake in loads of capital, yet consider on how AC Unity was close to a flop, in my view the ‘sales numbers’ seem high because Unity came free with nearly every Xbox One shipped. It is one way to get the sales numbers up, but will it give contribution (you know revenue minus costs)? Now AC Syndicate and so far the game is another iteration with another location, with Prince of Persia styled chase scenes, repetitive missions and triggered events. This is part of the problem. Yet, Ubisoft must also be praised, you see, the game ‘For Honor’ is part of the stable that can revive gaming. Gamers wants something new, they want change and For Honor seems to be all that, new, smooth and challenging (as far as I could see).

My biggest issue with Ubisoft remains that success is not a formula, yes a formula does tend to diminish the chance of failure, in equal measure a true success becomes utterly unobtainable too. Add to that unrepaired glitches and a QA department that adheres to marketing regulations and a disaster is close to an assurance. I have stated it in the past on more than one occasion. The article states “Mainstream big-budget video games have been shifting towards a mechanical singularity for years, and it’s really time to ask if that’s something that might be keeping people away too“. It is not a wonder that independent developers are now starting to be the big thing in gaming. If we ignore a release date we get Hello Games, by Sean Murray with ‘No Man’s Sky’. What is interesting here is that even the gospel papers are using ‘hints at release dates’ to pull in the viewers to their site. This must be a first in gaming history too! The old games still have the pull of two generations of gamers, David Braben is proving that with Elite Dangerous. More people are flocking towards the games that offer more than a mere 10 hour trip, a game that offers more than just the chases, the views and a fake open world. Metal Gear Solid 5 is in that case unique, Fallout 4 is unique, and none of those game franchises come on an annual base. The weird part is that Ubisoft sat on a treasure, Black Flag could have been the pirate RPG Sid Meier could not make because technology stopped him and marketing relied on the AC brand to proper something that was close to utterly perfect. They got lucky because Black Flag become the only decent game on launch night of the PS4. I reckon that is pretty much the only reason why it became the success is should not have been destined to be.

Linked to all this is the quote “The thing is, the recent excitement around Capcom’s decision to release a remastered version of series favourite Resident Evil 2 suggests there’s still a large audience for the original recipe“, this is absolutely true. The second one was an amazing piece of work and gamers remember that, which means that the IP can be reapplied to the new consoles. Re-applicable IP is worth a fortune, because any established IP of quality is more than a mere lottery ticket, it is the grail to a 9 figure revenue ready to be a pool of sustenance. This is why I believe that games like Ultima 4,5,6,7, System Shock (1+2) are not dead, they only await the right team to fix it up for the system of today (or tomorrow) ready to feed 50 million hungry gamers. That’s just 2 out of a dozen of IP’s ready to service a community that has a hunger that will not go away. Even as we speak, new games are coming, yet the approach that Tomb Raider took, no matter how nice it looks, it shows perfect graphics at 10% of the gaming time the first game brought. It doesn’t matter whether this was a lack of budget or vision. Gamers are offered less and less, which means that the old IP shows 5 times the gaming the new games are doing.

This is all proven in addition with the quote “Nintendo’s recent Wii U multiplayer “shooter” Splatoon provides a pretty good example of how thinking outside of the box – mechanically as well aesthetically – can turn a “core” genre on its head and make it speak to people who enjoy a slightly different way of playing games“. I think it goes beyond that. This game is worth buying a WiiU for. An original game has always had that effect. PS One with Tekken (Tomb Raider can almost a year later and truly brought sales numbers to a high), PS2 with Ridge racer V, Dreamcast with Soul Calibur, GameCube with Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, the list goes on and in that regard PS4 and XB1 both disappointed. Yet overall the next gen consoles are now showing less exceptional games and the future is not super bright. Yes there are really good releases but the number of them are not great, in that regard we see a new wave, consider that many (including me) are currently more interested in the remake of the 3 Mass Effect games for NextGen systems than in Mass Effect Andromeda. That is brought through disappointing NextGen releases and sloppy QA. So far Phantom Pain is one of the few true NextGen releases that are turning public opinion about by being truly exceptional, another title in that regard is Witcher 3.

The appeal for the massive joy that playing these old masters brings cannot be ignored, yet that also brings the problem that the title gave, namely ‘Video games have a diversity problem‘, it does and until true NextGen originality comes knocking (more than 3 titles) this feeling remains. Yet, good games are coming, the E3 showed that, but gamers do not know when and the Ubisoft problem is not going away at present. The quote “A new generation of successful indie developers is currently moving into the mid-sized AA space that so many more experimental companies occupied throughout the 1990s – and they’re hiring” is the most uplifting one, because that brings more likely than not a new wave of originality (we hope) and that will get the gamers on board.

I believe that 2017 is what will make or break the current consoles, yes the PS4 is doing extremely well, yet both systems have a massive market share and as the great titles are brought that field will move in either direction (PS4 vs XB1). That struggle will keep gaming alive and as more gamers have both systems they will win no matter where the game ends up, but the winner will be decided by the best games, Microsoft learned that with the 360 and ignored that with the XB1 as the powers that be decided on some ‘family entertainment system’ a choice that nearly bankrupted the Microsoft console division. In all this one part must not be ignored. It is ‘diversity’ and the owner of that part will bring the winning ticket to a console, for a long time Sean Murray held it with his upcoming game, yet as the flawed choice of keeping people in the dark on release date grows, so will the interest in the game dwindle to anti-climactic proportions, which is a shame. What Sean forgot was that gamers do not mind waiting, as long as they get some insight as for how long. We will wait until Q1 2016, but we want to know about the delay (and for roughly how long) so that we can buy something else to play. Sean forgot about that part, the fallout will come and as fallout 4 is released people will no longer wait and just move towards another game that gives them long term pleasure. I truly hope that we get to play No Man’s Sky because I believe this to be the one new game that will give me long term pleasure, the one side AAA game marketeers just do not grasp. It was never about the price, it is about the fact that 10 hours of gaming is not gaming, it nothing more than a narrated short story we can do without.

One part the article did not illuminate.

 

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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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