Tag Archives: Tombraider

When the old is new again

Finally the news is there; on December 3rd people from the later generation can finally see what the first PlayStation was like. You might think that there is no value in that, especially as the machine is there just before Christmas for $159. What is remarkable is the amount of games I had hoped to see and we will only get 20 games. But not to fret, the 20 games include Final Fantasy VII (not my favourite game), Metal Gear Solid, Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey, Rayman, Resident Evil Director’s Cut, Syphon Filter and Tekken 3. Each of these titles would have been worthy of the full price, so to get them all is so worth it, every penny of it. There are other titles, but this is the cream of the crop and even as I was never an FFVII fan, it is for that generation the pinnacle of Final Fantasy, a claim made by many.

Some will state that the very first GTA is also a classic, for me it is merely to see how far the game evolved over 5 cycles. It goes further, even as there has been rustling in the weeds, there is still no official confirmation for the N-64 mini; you might think that this would push Nintendo across and even as we have seen certain patents to optionally revamped N-64 hardware, there is still no official confirmation.

For me it is more than merely a sentimental journey. It should be the momentum to open the eyes of any optional game designer on how far games had gotten three cycles ago. In this stage that we were merely stopped by resources and in the end we get to see that the lack of resources made the game designers a lot more creative in adapting technology to the max. Even as I irritatingly got confronted last night with the Far Cry failure and taking into account “Far Cry 5 is a game that takes excess as ethos, yet, in pursuing that goal of more-more-more, stretches itself so thin as to offer up nothing at all” (source: Vice), we need to contemplate when is more actually less in the end? In my case it is the stage of adding more and more in Far Cry 4 that got to me (trying to get a few more achievements by replaying the game). It is my personal believe that Ubisoft should give both devices to the game developers and see if they learn something from it. The demonic precision and challenge that is known as Oddworld: Abe’s Odyssey is perhaps the most visible one. As puzzles go, I have never met anyone who without cheating and hacking got all 100. And even as I do not oppose people seeking the internet solutions, I have never met anyone who got all 100 in one play through; it might not even be possible. To get this on a system with 2 MB RAM and 1 MB VRAM, with a disc that stores 650MB that is the lesson right there. Now we do not want a copy of that game, but the ability to give something that is still revered 21 years later, that does count. I don’t expect Ubisoft, or many others to ever pull it off, yet does not also show our growing common lack of creativity?

Personally I thought Tenchu Z, not the greatest game, was still an awesome stealth game to play. The Xbox360 gave us a cool version of a 1998 game. Even as the score was a mere 56%, the fact that no one took that to the next level is a surprise. Even as the game had issues, it also had clear promise and direction towards a much better game. There are several reviews that have given since that Tenchu Z was underrated and I support that. It reflects back to the PS mini as we see (for all valid reasons) that Soul Edge and the Tombraider games might be missing, we do see an amazing classic Resident Evil Director’s Cut, that whilst the remake of Resident Evil 2 is about to launch, showing us what a dedicated fan can do when he gets his hands on a true classic. No matter how we view this, the first two set the bar high enough making it impossible to equal for several years and that took some doing. The remake is not merely a remaster; it gives new light to hardware what it can achieve when it is kicked to a higher level. Its application of torches (what the original did not do) as well as the challenge of limitation and choice pretty much made me shit my pants and for a video game to achieve that takes effort and dedication.

The danger is that someone merely makes a new version. I did not mind that, especially in the case of Loderunner (CBM64), or The Sentinel that when it got converted to PC, with music by John Carpenter himself, I was delighted to still feel the buzz of playing that game. Yet is it not time to add 20 years of games evolution and max out games that can be taken to the next stage? Even as we eagerly await the remake of System Shock (and hopefully System shock 2), we need to see that the older systems do have gems that still await their turn in getting a polishing and technological upgrades. I believe that Seven Cities of Gold (Amiga) could have all kinds of educational insights, not unlike the original SimCity did. The same could be said for Richard Garriott and a trilogy of his achievements (Ultima 3, 4 and 5), Ultima (6) and Ultima 7+7b in the third part. The power of one island with all games over time, a place 9 times the size of Skyrim with 6 main stories and close to a hundred side stories, it could optionally equal AC Odyssey in time to complete. We are already seeing an upcoming version of the Bards Tale, so the idea is not that novel, yet I see that the main players are still not looking into that direction, which is a shame. When a reviewer from PC Gamers gives you: “Three hours into the beta of The Bard’s Tale 4, I realized how late I’d stayed up puzzling my way through the labyrinth beneath a wizard’s castle“, you should be able to consider that these remasters and remakes are a clear golden path to good gaming and we all want good gaming. I personally believe that whilst we admire all the things Bethesda has done, I believe that it was The Witcher 3 that truly gave the RPG bar a nudge into a much higher direction and those who played it want a lot more than we had in the past. I believe that this is driving the players (and perhaps their desire to get Cyberpunk 2077 as soon as possible). I loved every moment of Bethesda RPG gaming and still do (after playing those games for well over 5000 hours), yet it missed a part (unintentionally), even as Bethesda was all about you shaping your character and the world around you, Project Red gave us Geralt of Rivia to play and the person that he is a pure blend of light and dark that we found overwhelmingly addictive. Project Red got the jackpot with that character and pretty much all the gamers want more of him, or perhaps better stated a taste of someone else like him.

So how can we evolve gaming? I do not believe it is better hardware; it never was about the hardware. When you consider the GameCube, it had 24MB RAM, 16MB of DRAM a 1.5GB RAM optical disc (30% of a DVD) and even today finding something that equals Metroid Prime (one and two) is pretty impossible. It is about the quality game and we need a new generation of game developers to open that gaming superhighway, and this is where the PS mini can open doors. You see Creativity is within a person, you can polish it, you can teach that person skills to tap into that creativity, yet when that person cannot tap into creativity, the best thing we can hope for is a new version of a spreadsheet program.

Limitations drives creativity, but it needs to be within that person. Here again we need to go to Ubisoft, because the game ‘With Honor‘ shows that Jason Vandenberghe has creativity and loads of it. It was not my game because I prefer to play alone, I am not a multiplayer gamer, and With Honor was all about multiplayer, which is fair enough. It might not have been the game for me, but I was pretty amazed with the game. We can Monday morning quarterback that game all we like, yet in the end it was a well-made game. Here too I believe that the 80% score was underrated (by close to 12%), and that is whilst I am no fan of multiplayer games.

I believe that Ubisoft is sitting on a hundred million dollars of underestimated or neglected potential and even as we accept that making games costs a lot of money, sitting on a chest worthy of funding a dozen games, a chest that is collecting dust seems like such a waste. Consider that Far Cry 5 81% could have easily added 10%, how much sales was lost because of that? In this I add parts of a list called ‘14 Ubisoft Video Games – Ranked From Worst to Best‘ and see what could have been done better.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity. There is no avoiding that title, the QA, the testing and the AI bugs were a joke. This game should not have been released before proper testing would have been done, but we have been here a few dozen times, so let’s move on.

Zombi (PS4 Edition). A game that was actually better on the WiiU, can we get any clearer, a decent idea was not properly set forward making it a joke. This went beyond testing, I can only speculate that it was never properly programmed and the original had loads of potential, for the limitations of the WiiU, the makers actually got a whole lot further, even as the random spawning had a few knockbacks of their own the end result on the PS4 was pretty much completely unacceptable.

Watch Dogs. I had this as a day one order (with the PS4 launch), so I was miffed. It went further in the game with programmed settings and a few other quirks (a lot of them) the game fell short in many ways (that is even beside the delay that outstretched any pregnancy), yet the concept was pretty good, I made the AC1 comparison that as an original it had potential and just like AC2, the game would make or break. Watchdogs two was weird in some way, but it was so much better, the second game made the franchise, so that was good. The first game had a good story, we all could relate to it, yet some parts were too awkward and it never got fixed or improved.

The Division. Again a multiplayer game, which was not my thing, yet the story line, was immersive and people around me really went for the game. So as we passed a few quirks and bugs (blocking the door being the most visible one), we see a game that in its first premiere has loads of potential, potential brought to light, yet these flaws were not deadly and that too is important to recognise. the two parts that Forbes gives us is “As excited as I am that The Division has matchmaking for every single activity, for daily missions, it’s a complete and utter disaster“, as well as “I mean it is literally bugged to all hell where you are lucky if you can even start a game, much less finish one”. They are both indicatory of larger failings and beta playtesting to a much larger extent might have shown the weakness, yet the biggest issue in these games will be hackers and cheaters. I do not mind that they are around, but when I get fleeced for everything I have, it becomes annoying really fast. Still it is a franchise with optional forward momentum, that too much be recognised.

Far Cry 3. We need to look at this, as it is quintessential the best Far Cry ever, the main adversary Vaas Montenegro (brilliantly voiced by Michael Mando) is amazing, the graphics are good, the stealth is stellar and the challenges are equally from out of this world. Chasing all these objects are well overboard (not in a good way) and the stage of cell towers and outposts are pretty amazing. the ballistics are a problem as I have never seen any tiger walk away from a .50 headshot let alone 2, but if that is as bad as it gets we have a winner here and that is exactly what it was, a winner. From this it was downhill, 4, Primal and 5 are nowhere the third puppy (neither were one and two for that matter) and even as 5 is a step forward in many directions, the game in the end was not a better end product. This ended as Vice gave us: “Far Cry 5 is a game that takes excess as ethos, yet, in pursuing that goal of more-more-more, stretches itself so thin as to offer up nothing at all” and they are right.

Assassin’s Creed II. The game that should be regarded as the franchise starter of the AC range is brilliant, even as there are a few issues; the game was so far forward from AC1 that we eagerly forgot about the flaws we saw. The game in every respect shows that it is the fortune maker for Yves Guillemot and his two baby brothers (Michael and Gerard). Even as AC Brotherhood was more of the same, it was still forward momentum in a few ways. These two games were the start of an addiction but also the end of the original push forward, in the end what came after was more of the same with too little forward momentum, It actually reflects TombRaider, which after the second one was trying to be too clever and ‘deceptive’ with twists, yet we never got something really new, just more and that would not change until the definitive version was released.

In the end we could also look at Splinter Cell and how that went not forward, but more and if you love stealth, you will love more, yet in blacklist the ball was dropped by too far and that is what hampered Ubisoft. This is seen when you consider that the ratings went from 94%, to 89%, to 85% and 84%. I would have thought that after the second rating alarms would have been raised, they might have been, but they did not work. It is this path that needs to be reflective in all this, because if we consider Watchdogs 3, Whatever AC comes next, the Division 2, Far Cry 6 and Hopefully another Splinter Cell, Ubisoft needs to consider on how to make the games actually better, not merely bigger, or give us more of the same. the story will be everything, yet the playability with have a massive weight on the vision handed to the players that is where a few dozen million Euros are hidden and Ubisoft might lose out on that; the amount of missed money represents well over 50 of my life time earnings, so I think that some of the people behind the players need to take a serious look on how to secure said optionally lost funds. I see it in another direction, if my mind can construct a virtual foundation of (an imaginative) Elder Scrolls VII within eight hours, how many opportunities did some designers lose by not truly investigate the projects they were working on? I might have been in games since 1984, but I know I am not the best, I have met the best (Peter Molyneux, Richard Garriott and Sid Meier) and I know they surpass me by a lot, yet I have the drop on some developers today and that saddens me. They should be running loops around me without breaking a sweat.

The gaming world is ready for new unique games and new franchises, even as some of the older games might point the way, we see that finding a new game, and actual new original game is a hard thing to do, it can only be done by a dreamer, a dreamer that others will listen too, an artist to give view to the dream, a programmer to set the stage and a writer to translate the dreams into stories, even as the writer and the dreamer are likely the same person, the place where the two acts are done is likely to be different and until that part is recognised, the making of any new 90%+ franchise will remain out of reach for all developers like Ubisoft. If you doubt that part, merely look at the history of a game called Lemmings. I tested it initially and I remember on how Psygnosis got to the game in the first place, so when you think that all good games are a calculated results of proper investigation, think again. A game released in 1991, whilst we still see today: “The best Amiga game of all time (2011)“, you better believe that artsy has everything to do with it. This is quite literally the shit that gamers live for, how else can you explain the desire after decades for a game like System Shock (or the remake of FFVII for that matter)?

If there is one part that must be told, than it would be the part that I never saw coming. For that we need to look at the Xbox360. I never knew the game, so I got caught off guard. I initially did not buy it as I was playing Bioshock 2 and awaiting both Fable 3 and New Vegas. So when I heard the score, I got curious. One gave it 90% the other 83%, this piqued my curiosity and it was not disappointed. They say that 97% liked this game and that should have been the rating. Mikael Kasurinen, Sam Lake, Mikko Rautalahti and Petri Järvilehto surpassed themselves and many game designers with Alan Wake. The game was everything we hope for and more, the setting of a mere danger by being in the dark was a direct original approach to our primal fear (even in games) and Alan Wake did use that to the max. It was an amazing stage of open world and level challenge all into one and your life does depend on the power of a battery here, so there was that to get worried about. Alan Wake also shown that the creative dreamer will always have the advantage over the stage of calculated new versions of a franchise. Even as Alan Wake might have that fear to deal with, the original was more challenging than many other developers were able to give us and Microsoft Studios actually created an instant classic on launch day, something not many game developers have ever achieved.

I never saw it coming, so I do not hold all the wisdoms, I will not even make such a claim even as the article might imply it. The fact that a game like Alan Wake could surprise me to such a degree is also the reason why I am still a gamer, just like a junkie hoping for its next fix of amazement. The nice thing here is that it is a lot cheaper than either Heroin or Cocaine, so there is that benefit for any gamer too.

We seem to chase the old to get a new version because of that feeling of amazement, which is good in one way (especially the owners of the IP), yet the lack of true new IP is also a worry for the gamers and getting the right developers and creating the right programmers is not about giving them all the resources, but to teach them how to overcome shortcomings in current architecture. It is not the programmes that maximises a system we need, it is the one who gets it done on a 75% system that is the one we need to get. Merely because that game will be lean, it will be mean and it will still transgress the borders that a seasoned programmer did not consider. to be able not to merely to make a stronger game, but to set a proper stage where replaying that game is just as rewarding as playing it the first time, that is the classic of tomorrow going home with a 95%+ rating and taking home the coffers of gold. This is what all the game developers need and some are in the process of getting there; it would be a shame if players like Ubisoft and EA games miss out because they were not willing, or able to go that distance.

And as a gamer as well as a dreamer, consider the game when you add AI in the mix, not the AI of the enemy, but the AI that you as the gamer get to shape. In this we need to consider an oldie like Sundog, Frozen Legacy by FTL Games (the maker of the legendary Dungeon Master and Oids). Now consider that the game starts with only you, but as you shape the AI, you can hand your navigation skills to an android and grow your crew. The game will only be as good as you are. As you grow the positions on the ship upgrade the ship and get a larger one. You will need to get more knowledge and only when you have one placement over a certain percentage an android can take over. You have to be the navigator, helmsman, the tactician and the engineer. You need to master one role after another, downloading your skill enhancements into the android and growing a crew, not programmed intelligence, but your game interactions that are transferred to the android. What game thought of that? Actually Epyx had a game called Chip Bits, yet I don’t think it ever made the light of day.

If such an addition is added to a game like Elite Dangerous when you upgrade from a 31 meter Eagle fighter to an 88 meter Python (see Image), how many hundreds of hours of gameplay would that get you? Elite Dangerous now has 30 playable ships and you have the option of ‘merely’ flying the ship, yet what extra will you get when you are adding functions and you have to repair the ship under combat conditions? A side that Sundog had to the minimum degree and with 1MB RAM the Atari ST did not get far, yet it gave us more than some games currently do, is that not weird either?

There have been so many games between 1984 (CBM-64) and 2005 (Xbox360), a timeline filled with gems, many of these gems could be the foundation of jewelry that is multifaceted, colourful and challenging in so many ways. Many of these are not merely remasters; they could be the foundation of new and optionally uniquely new IP.

In this, the CEO of Ubisoft might have stated it the best when he said: “There will be one more console generation and then after that, we will be streaming, all of us“, that might be true, so getting to new IP now makes perfect sense, in many ways. to do that in the streaming age is a dangerous move for a few reasons, mainly because the streaming power will not be with the gaming side of things, it will be with the telecom providers and there have been more than just a few indicators that this will start in the most rocky of ways, especially outside of metropolitan areas. I have had this issue a few times to a smaller degree, yet as we consider that this is 2 weeks old “Optus say it is congestion but can’t explain how you can get 100 mbs and then the next minute you have a dropout. They appear to be doing nothing as they can’t say how long it will take to fix or what they are doing to address the issue. Have been a customer for over 25 years but the last 6 months the service has been substandard“, I believe that this goes (a lot) further than just one provider, congestion is increasing all over the global field and until some telecom providers (multiple providers) get their house in order and up their game, streaming games will become more and more hazardous over time, it will take years to get this environment a lot better and 5G is not making it any easier. So the next generation of consoles is the best time to maximise IP, because the IP after that will end up not having as much value as the blame game between telecom providers and game developers are likely to flare and they will flare up all over the planet (or is that this planet).

It goes beyond mere gaming. You see The Network Congestion 2030 project, launched in 2009 (for airports), was designed as a two phased approach towards solving congestion issues, yet when we see that approach in the Netherlands we see “Unlike the Telecommunications Act, the Regulation furthermore allows Internet Service Providers to take reasonable traffic management measures, e.g. to avoid imminent network congestion. Such measures must be transparent, non-discriminatory and proportionate, and may not be based on commercial considerations. The Telecommunications Acts allows Internet Service Providers to intervene in the Internet data flows only if a data accumulation must be controlled. A frequent criticism of the Regulation is that it is difficult to monitor traffic management measures aimed at avoiding imminent congestion, which may give rise to abuse. An example in the Netherlands related to network congestion is the ACM’s decision of 2013 to put an end to its investigation of the restriction of free Internet in trains by T-Mobile. ACM concluded that the blocking of certain internet services by T-Mobile was permissible to prevent “traffic jams” on the network“, with the mention of ‘may not be based on commercial considerations‘ we see the optional impact on gamers, because these systems have not been tested with millions of gamers streaming, in European terms even tens of millions. Netflix had a dramatic growth (after this entire issue started) and as gamers do the same added to that same construction devoid of much larger expansions the impact will be there and it will be there very visible; throttling streams will make them collapse and that is where we see that down the track the impact on gamers will be much larger and they are for now, not even considered.

So as the old becomes new, we see new challenges and other obstacles that are now not in the hands of non-gamers, but they will be the moment that streaming congestion becomes the daily reality of every gamer.

So the need of being able to be creative and set the stage for a 75% resource solution would at that point become crystal clear at the moment the situation emerges. Merely a new iteration of complications to solve in addition of all the other corrections needed. At that point to have a much better QA will be essential for the IP holder not to go bust almost overnight. You merely have to consider the Division launch day crash and the idea that this could happen once a month at the very least in that new setting. It will be something that is not the fault of Ubisoft, not the fault of the designers, it will merely be the impact of congestion and the telecom provider will mention that they are sorry, but it is out of their hands and they cannot explain to you why it happened.

Oh and this issue is as stated a global one, in the end you cannot blame the game makers when the issue is that your gaming evening depends on something like the Comcast outage map. When you see: “Comcast/Xfinity is reporting a widespread outage in the south suburbs” and you miss out on the season challenges of whichever game you are playing because of: “An aerial pole in Harvey was reportedly struck, damaging 288 cables, according to Comcast officials. The outage is expected to last until approximately 3:30 pm” and you can forget about gaming that day, that is when you get the first moment of irritation with streaming. In single play you can still get your gaming on, games like Elite Dangerous fall away that day and starting Fortnite becomes a foregone illusion. When all games become a streaming experience you might in the end only end up having Minecraft in offline mode available, a great game, yet when it is the only game it is more likely than not the evening you never banked on, or hoped for.

 

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Merely a year ago

I just looked at an article that made me a little uneasy. You see, I was contemplating a few days ago, as Facebook reminded me that ‘No Man’s Sky‘ was released a year ago. I had shared a photo, that’s how I got remembered. So much has happened in that year. I still love the game; I do not play it that often, mainly because the makers introduced a few ‘deadly irritating‘ glitches and screw ups in the game. For the most I have been highly protective of the game and the makers. The game remains awesome and I still believe that they are sitting on multimillion IP value here. Like all others, I saw the initial E3 trailer, I was seeking like most on what the game had to offer and that is when the legendary night with Stephen Colbert came. Most of us were hooked instantly. From that moment on, and from the moment that IGN had the No Man’s Sky month, I took a step back. You see, SEO’s started to ride the NMS-Express. More and more outlandish claims got on the internet and scores of gullible gamers just took it at face value. Even the Catholic Church sites used NMS to propel their websites. But months after that, the truth came out; we got to see the ACTUAL game. There were two that stood out on YouTube. I think it was Johnny and Ian who made them, I think that Johnny gave us the play through whilst showing he was pretty bad at playing this game from the moment he started playing it. Now, I am willing to accept that playing and live commenting is not the best way to get any hold of a new game, which is fair; the other amazing thing they did was starting the game 50 times, and turning that into a video showing us the massive difference worlds could have. This was the trailer NMS should have made, but OK. In the end, it does not matter.

Now we get to the issues. The amount of people who brought back the game was a little out there. I heard mountains of complaints. I had none. You see, these people walked on a hype, not knowing what they were buying and even Sony was ‘pro consumer‘ whilst most of the people did this to themselves. They all (read: most people) believed the hyping media whilst there were too many mentions from Sean Murray that were distorted. Now, the game has a few small bugs, so did Assassins Creed Unity, the difference? The patch from NMS was 65Mb; the one from Unity was 12GB. The difference between a glitch and a mismanaged game! NMS was not mismanaged. Now, the makers of NMS are not without some due scolding, and I will get to them in a moment.

Now, we get to the article. The first issue I have is the one with their comparison. My addiction to the other game goes back to 1984. With “not to mention dozens of minor tweaks that bring No Man’s Sky closer in line with a space simulator like Elite: Dangerous“, these are worlds apart. Making any comparison is like stating that Apples and Kiwis are the same because they are both fruit. I love both (Elite a lot more than NMS after 32 years), I would state that NMS is the artsy approach to the universe, where Elite: Dangerous is the scientific view. In Elite trading is serious business and even as you can live by simple rules, getting the big bucks requires cunning insights and a willingness to be dealing in banned substances and goods. All this whilst a few billion planets have an economy based on what they are and as such what is rare on their planet and what is in abundance, a game with a market with dozens of goods and commodities. In Elite you need to learn how to dock, in NMS you merely press rectangle. They allow both to exist in the gaming universe; I feel that you can appreciate both. With “Progress is still slow and inventory management is still a complete slog, lessened somewhat by a couple of tweaks that allow for quicker recharging of weapons and tools, but still cumbersome and annoying” Sam White does touch on a truth, yet as the game progresses and the multi tool evolves, you get loads more done. As your ship gets bigger you get to haul a lot more. More important, as you evolve your suit you get to do things for much longer able to find loads more.

Now it is time for me to scold Sean Murray a little. He added to the game, with bases as all, yet he also flawed in a few ways too. This is best seen in the ‘hard-core’ and ‘permadeath’ parts. Sean, you nice guy you, you need to realise that the ship you just fixed, ordering annoyingly to fly into space is getting them killed instantly. Did you realise that? An empty ship should not be interesting to pirates and in hard-core, your first fixed ship, getting that person killed because a wave of 4 pirates can never be beaten by any ship just repaired. Did you not consider that? Setting a freedom from pirates until after the second jump would have been better. Getting them to deal with one ship instead of 2 waves of 4 is no way to appreciate the game. I can go on a little longer, but you get the idea Sean!

Yet in the original game (normal mode), where I have the punching power of a titan, all looks good. Most improvements are indeed that improvement. Yet the one part still a little off is the fact that a planer will for the most 2 of the minerals we need (apart from the red, the yellow and the green minerals). The fact that most planets need a lot more minerals (optionally not all near one another) is one that I never encountered, even by the long terms exploring on foot I did. The issues I mention might be small but they matter on the immediate players, who are actually missing out because you made the improvements for the people who have been there for a long time. Get one of them to go into permadeath mode, starting again and hear them scream in agony. Now, we all had that the first time and it forced us to be clever about things and that is a really good thing. Yet after hours, finding your ship, fixing it and then getting blown up one minute after take-off is a little too insulting.

The one thing me and Sam White will not see eye to eye on is “No Man’s Sky will likely never outrun the inevitable monotony that comes with procedural generation“. I saw this game as seeing what amazement the environment could behold. I accept that watching life evolved pineapples was a stretch, but still places that were fun to watch. There is a partial part that this game has levels of repetition if you are chasing to the centre of the galaxy, yet with ‘the inevitable monotony I tend to not agree. I accept that there is a truth in it, but the makers could evolve and add to the initial versions, oh and the fact that you need to play a minimum of 8 hours for one achievement, whilst the entire Tombraider game can be done in under 12 hours gives options to ponder what is actually inevitable. The monotony part does apply when you are merely chasing to the centre of the galaxy and getting your achievements (which for the larger extent is not that hard), yet when you see it what it hides, the arts and the views that so many combinations bring, we need to accept that the game it is not about the ‘prescribed monotony’ but the ignored art of getting the place to look the way it does when it runs. As monotony goes, take a look at Minecraft, monotonous or not it remains close to the most addictive game ever made. Still, NMS has options to evolve towards more options, more gameplay and more challenges. So even as I cannot deny that there is a level of monotony, the way it is stapled to the game is one I do not agree with. This was never going to be some fast game arcade game, which is pretty awesome, because Elite is not like that in more than equal ways, yet now both moving towards options and growth is what they both deliver, whilst no other game has been able to provide for is ignored. With Elite giving us now options in engineers and planetary landings, an option that the game never before offered. In the end, I still believe that No Mans Sky is still an awesome achievement. At times I see it as some version of Minecraft with actual awesome graphics. With the base building I can settle in one place and explore, yet the reality is that to grow I need to mine and acquire minerals, the fact that some are at times spread over planets is a little too unrealistic, but that is what the game gives us.

Still, as I see it, by many media No Man’s Sky is one of the worst clear covered games I have seen in a long time. From my personal view the game was too often reviewed in weird incomprehensible ways. In this Metro is one source that should be looked at. With: “The simplest description for No Man’s Sky is a space trader, in the style of the original Elite, with elements of survival games such as Rust or Don’t Starve. You start the game after crash-landing your spaceship, with no clue as to who (or what) you are and how you got there” (at http://metro.co.uk/2016/08/12/no-mans-sky-review-where-no-one-has-gone-before-6063429/). Is it a trading game? I do not think so! It has trade options, it has exploration options. They are true with ‘You start the game after crash-landing your spaceship, with no clue as to who (or what) you are and how you got there’ which can be seen as a blessing or a curse. You do get clear jobs to do, like fix your ship, find certain minerals, but yes, that part is fair. Yet, the issue that many of the media had was seen with “You’re then immediately given the choice to either explore the universe at random or to follow a story path at the behest of a mysterious alien intelligence named Atlas“. The fact that the reviews do not give the amazing differences per world is a little mystifying, the fact that life forms can be so outrageously different and that some see YOU as food is equally an issue, especially when you are out in the open and you are dinner. The upgrades brought good things and a few lesser items, yet overall NMS is still an excellent game for those who appreciate. It is very different from Elite: Dangerous and that is awesome, because that has a serious trading side and the exploring part is largely different and very little artsy in Elite: Dangerous. If it comes to fighting NMS compares to Elite like Need for Speed does to Gran Turismo. If you are a serious race freak, Need for Speed is not the game, merely a warm up entertainment and that is fair, it is not what NMS proclaimed to be, merely an option that it had (one that needs tweaking mind you).

The gaming world needs both games because science without art is tedious; merely art is at times aimless. It is how you personally see it and that is great about both games. These two games are not what they tell you to be, they allow you to let the games grow to what you would like it to be, which is ultimately extremely rare in the world of Gaming. The fact that Hero Games still rolls out parts in this game is also awesome and shows commitment to a game that I refuse to see as a failure, merely a game that was largely misunderstood as I see it. Now, many gamers are not into these two games, just like they have no patience for games like Fallout or Elder Scrolls. That is fair enough! They hold life in their hands and they believe that a game like Forza or Fifa is the fulfilment of their gaming life and I believe that is fine too. Gaming is so personal, what you like, dislike or evade is all yours to decide and none of your reasons are invalid, it is merely what pleases you that matters and some will still decide on merely one title like Zelda, which is good too! Yet in the case of NMS, the largest blow was by the media to cover what they did not understand, that is the part I still find a bit offensive. In this The Guardian has not done this, Sam White has his own view and even as he do not agree with certain parts, he is not misinforming you, which must be pointed out as well. In this one element every player of the game should love is the part where we see “30 hours of new story content”, so a free addition, which amounts to 2.5 Tombraider games (valued ad $229), so as we see the push forward, getting No Man’s Sky is turning out to be one of the best buys for a long time.

If there is one mismanaged part on the media side, than it is the fact that the media at large basically did not understand the game, or is that comprehend the gameplay? To cut it short, the wrong people looked at the game and valued it wrongly, that is just what it is at times and there is no coming back from that. We could give the example that the media was saying that they ‘found inspiration in cooking their family and their dogs’, whilst it was about that they ‘found inspiration in cooking, their family, and their dogs’. It seems like a small difference but in one case (the wrong one) you’ll be eating alone for the larger part of your life.

It might be seen as a failing by Hello Games, which is not an unfair assessment to some degree, yet in that same light, something like NMS had never been made before, which is important because this game is unique, it will remain unique and I doubt if anyone can repeat something like this to the degree that had been achieved. This is merely my view and you need not agree with it, I am not trying to convert you, merely giving my view. So try the game, do not try the game, I merely hope that you remain true to gaming and embrace the games you actually love to play. The joy of gaming is pretty much that simple.

 

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Not seeing the hype come

I have been connected to gaming since the mid 80’s. In a time where only geeks were into games, where the average Joe was into booze and ‘pretending’ to have sex, games were not on his (or her) mind. The population would not see a surge into gaming until the PlayStation came and even then it was a slow boat to wherever. It took until the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 for things to change. I reckon the Gameboy also made a dent in that world, but the move to the masses did not truly start until 2005. It has now been 11 years and what was an ignored industry is now a 200 billion dollar market and everyone wants a slice. With mobiles evolving the way they have in the last 2 years, that device is now also more and more the gaming solution for those on the move, which has added a new dimension.

Here I missed one sign that I did not see coming. I saw how the predicted success Minecraft even outdid my expectations, I have seen games come, I have successfully predicted winners and especially losers and average wastes of time, yet last Friday I witnessed something I did not expect, in the same way I did not expect Skylanders to be the success it became.

There is a game called Pokémon GO, which was released this month and the amount of people I have almost literally tripped over since Friday is beyond normal. I have been a Pokémon friend since Sapphire and Ruby were released on the Gameboy Advance, yet what is shown all over Sydney now I did not see that coming. It is almost everywhere. On trains, in busses, sitting in the park, walking on the street and in the office, people are trying to catch them all. It is a little overwhelming to see this big a leap in interest, yet this is what happens. Even as we now know that No Man’s Sky went gold last Friday, which means that production of the shippable discs will be a reality soon, the fact that this game came from almost nowhere towards an IOS and Android release is more than just great. You see, it is not just that this game is a hype (for now), the fact that an established game can be vamped into a new mobile dimension is absolutely fantastic. It means that leagues of games could find their own evolution into the mobile industry and into the gaming minds for those holding onto their mobiles.

Another side has been illuminated by Forbes. Their quote “The best approach you can take is to make that impact positive by embracing the game and making the Pokémon GO experience a memorable one for both you and your potential customers” gives a first nod towards the use of “Pokémon GO has a purchasable in-game item called a “Lure Module” which attracts Pokémon to a particular PokeStop for 30 minutes. Those Pokémon it attracts? They’re visible to and attainable by everyone in the nearby vicinity. Use it during a typically slow period of your day to get more foot traffic, and then use your creativity to turn them into a paying customer“, which now gives retail another option besides ‘free Wi-Fi’. We will soon see methods of using gamers to lure groups of people towards any location, especially if this is a route towards legendary Pokémon’s from either a hatched or an unhatched egg.

There is one other side to all this. The fact that this game relies on movement (GPS linked) and being out and about is a first step to get some gamers from Couch Potato mode into the Go-Getter stream of an active population. I reckon that deserves a lot more merit than most people are giving this game. Although, with the speed that this game is finding itself towards mobiles is pretty amazing and it is about to become a global success!

So, what can we learn from this?

The fact that I missed a winner? True, I did, I have missed winners before and I will do so again. Because the public tends to be fickle and it has plenty of distractions pointed in their ways. They are equally influenced by others who tell them what is cool, what is worth trying and what makes a difference.

The growing Hype? Yes, there is a massive growth, especially amongst people who I know to have never shown any serious interest in Pokémon. The question becomes is it because it is on a mobile device, or is it the mobile nature of the game? For now, I feel that there is not enough information to give a clear answer, yet the fact that people are making detours into Hyde Park to get rare Pokémon’s gives value that the trendiness of mobile gaming is one that many are exploring. Giving the makers of this game a large advantage over other games for now.

Yet there is just one part that requires mentioning. You see, what bugged me a little was not that I have missed spotting a winner, but the facts that were shown in Forbes yesterday (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonevangelho/2016/07/10/pokemon-go-about-to-surpass-twitter-in-daily-active-users/#3f90dc517455). The quote “Data published today by SimilarWeb indicates that the mobile game may be poised to surpass Twitter in daily active users on Android“. Now consider that Twitter is global and that Pokémon GO has been in released in three countries. The US, where this game is installed on 5.6% of ALL Android devices (according to Forbes). In Australia where I passed 150 active users from Town Hall to the UTS building (I stopped counting at 150) and in New Zealand, where it is popular with the people and according to the gossip it is popular with roughly 3.4332% of the Sheep population, including a few Flaaffy’s and Mareep’s.

There is no doubt that this trend will follow through in other games. As soon as issues with batter drains is solved, this game will grow its user base even faster. Which beckons the call, are we all gamers now?

You see in the original Star Trek series, in the episode ‘Shore Leave‘ we get the quote ‘the more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play‘, which could be considered a truth in itself. Yet another lane in that road can be gotten from the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset who stated “tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are“, another truth, yet today, that might we one for debate as we see the user population shift all over the mobile field from Facebook to Tinder. In that regard, as we see our delusion that we can devour any line of data and responses into our brain, we are confronted with ego in a nasty way. We seem to lose direction and we seem to lose the ability to correctly sift what is cognition and what is noise.

So how does this apply to ‘Not seeing the hype come?‘ It is for the simple reason that market interpretation is not seeing the noise, but the ability to value the noise to the extent of what is actual data that should be regarded as ‘analysed factual events‘. I believe that the levels of play that Pokémon offers are interestingly simple, yet overall still a tactical challenge. Pokémon lives (as I see it) next to Minecraft when it comes to ‘simplicity of play’, yet the interactive and tactical side to the game makes it fun and challenging. You see, the foundation of the game remains to be a variant on Rock, Paper and Scissors. In the game, Fire defeats Grass, Grass defeats Water and Water defeats Fire. Yet Pokémon took it to an entirely different level as they have Normal, Fire, Water, Electric, Grass, Ice, Fighting, Poison, Ground, Flying, Psychic, Bug, Rock, Ghost, Dragon, Dark and Steel. Some have two elements (like Fighting and Psychic) giving additional tactical options. All this in a game that has been around for 20 years. The fact that we see new life into a game title through evolved gameplay shows that the 91 billion dollar gaming industry is still growing in several directions, all leading, not just towards additional revenue, but to additional forms of gameplay, which is what a gamer tends to like!

Here we see another level of gaming, which is why I mentioned No Man’s Sky, a game that has been 3 years in development. We were introduced to a hype and even though the hype ‘died’ many are still looking forwards to this game that is still destined (at present) to be released on August 10th. This game seems to embrace the simplicity of play through the size of the Universe giving us the option to travel to the centre of the universe again and again until the day we die, with the chance that most planetary visits will be unique experiences. Pokémon gives us ‘simplicity’ in another way, when we consider these elements (in light of Minecraft) that it is interesting how game designers seem to forget (or ignore) what an important element simplicity is in regards to gaming. We might want to ignore Space Invaders and Pac-Man as there were no games in those days.

Yet Galaga was not alone and is still regarded after 30 years as one of the best shooters. Now we see other Kickstarter projects come to life with shooters like Iridium, a very successful title in the golden age of the Commodore 64. It seems that some gamers are figuring out what the people need. A trait larger software houses changed into the premise of ‘we are offering the people what we think they need‘. Now, that premise is not unwarranted, because the gaming industry is to offer what they think the people seem to need. Yet certain failures in the past from more than one software house bring debate to that approach. When we see a ‘definitive edition’ of Tombraider which is graphically amazing, yet comes with a life cycle of 10 hours, we need to wonder whether the developer had thought it through. The fact that I was able to get through the entire game from Friday and finish it Saturday evening gives visibility to the flaw of the game. In light of time there is another game I want to bring to your attention, but in an opposite direction. It is Metal Gear Solid, Phantom of Pain. A game so large that many players have not finished it. Even the blogger Lawlordtobe (yours truly) with the history of gaming has not completed that game at present. So as value goes, it is by far the best bang for your buck a game like this has ever offered. Yet, as I spoke to a fellow gamer who literally stated ‘this game is just too big’, I have to wonder if it is the game or the gamer here? Have we been lulled into complacency by 20 hour games for so long that we no longer recognise the challenge that a real game like Metal Gear Solid V brings (without relying on non-stop repetition)?

I think that there is a balance between size and simplicity. Minecraft, Candy Crush, Threes, Angry Birds and Bejewelled are the most visible examples. Yet the other end of the spectrum does not seem to apply, the more complex a game, the shorter it can be. The fact that Tombraider, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Ryse and Mirrors edge were regarded as too short gives light that the equation is not entirely that simple. In the end, learning what game will actually hypes seems to remain in league with the ability to read tea leaves. You see, I have had a long time high score in predicting winners and I have made a few bad calls too. I did not see Pokémon GO to the extent I should have noticed it and this comes from a person who has been trying to catch them all since 2002. The game has been repetitive at times, yet it never bored me. The brilliance of interaction that the sets needed  with Ruby & Sapphire, Fire-Red & Leaf-Green, Black & White, X & Y and the soon to arrive Sun & Moon have given us fun moments to gaming.

And with all these versions, I still did not see this tidal wave of usage coming, because that is where I do not completely agree with a friend who told me that it was because it was free. IOS and Android have plenty of free games, this level of usage has not ever been seen before.

Niantic Labs is sitting on a home-run gold mine. Good for them!

 

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Burning out your life

Yesterday’s news in the Guardian is skating on an interesting side. Yes, there are more games awards coming, there are new releases and there are all kinds of events coming into play. So when I read ‘Crunched: has the games industry really stopped exploiting its workforce?’ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/18/crunched-games-industry-exploiting-workforce-ea-spouse-software), I read it with a different set of eyes.

The first part is “EA relied on vagaries of American law that classify some IT professionals as exempt from overtime pay. The settlement in the second case featured a quid pro quo: employees would be reclassified in order to get overtime but would give up their stock options“, I can guarantee you that I have been in the same set of shoes, Market Research is at times as caring as a steamroller driving over Miss Daisy. It is nice to see the claim ‘stock options‘, yet that flavour of reward tends to be for the managers and the heads of development, not for all the programmers. They tend to get an evening of free food and booze. Take 35 programmers each having done 100-250 hours of extra time, getting paid off with a $300 meal, works out great for the manager getting his 25,000 stocks at $0.50, not so great for others. I am not stating that this works exactly like that in gaming, but I have seen it in other areas of software.

The most common theory is that the industry is simply too young and too fast-moving to integrate proper management techniques. “Our project was huge and our overall quality assurance process at the time was very basic and waterfall-esque,” recalls one quality assurance worker at EA“, is the second part. This has been shown in several games of late, if we look at the flawed releases of 2014, we can clearly see a lacking scale of QA. It then refers to the work of Fred Brooks on how company size influences efficiency. There is no denying that. Proper management is required, especially when the group grows faster than projected. A special mention of the honour guard must be given to the Marketing department who then also changes the timeline, to get that extra revenue, like marketing COULD have figured that part out at the very beginning. All this will add to the burden of quality delivery and the stress of the workers.

This quote is important, as I consider this to be a stronger part of the sliding quality scale “I was a quality assurance tester at Rockstar, and at its worst, we worked 72 hours a week“, a decent reason for quality to slide (irritating that Rockstar still pulled of a 90% plus rating, although they had a few start-up issues), especially when you consider the following quote “if you had issues with it, you were told ‘Well, you can go stack shelves at Tesco instead or answer phones at a call centre’. You were treated as disposable“, not an entirely unknown event for some in the IT pool. When we consider ““Developers and managers should never have to work more than 40 hours a week,” he says. “It’s a fun job, but it shouldn’t be an exploitative one. Everyone has a life. Let them live it, it’s short enough as it is”“, that sounds partially as a solution, but only if it affects the entire range of staff.

I personally see this all as a reason on why there has been a sliding scale of quality. Is there a chance that Ubisoft has been on this track? This is NOT an accusation! You see, too many hours result in burnout, burnout influences creativity and resolve, crunch time, might give a little extra resolve, but in the end it costs more then it brings. I think that the power of innovation will always win, if balance and rest (to some extent) is made available to revive the soul and the mind.

I think that the next quote sounds nice, but is it enough? “Over the past 18 months, EA has been making significant investments in new quality assurance tools and automation technology, implementing ongoing testing right from the beginning of game conceptualisation. These changes are ultimately improving game quality, as well as reducing the need for the crunch periods”. These tools need proper implementation, they need proper assessment and the people need to properly use them. It tends to add a strain to all levels for a little while. More important, it is only one side of the game (pun intended). For example Mass Effect 4, the engine, the locations, the interface, all are under stress to be made. What if a solution throws the gaming experience? What happens then? What happens when the initial reception is ‘average’, what will marketing do then and more, what will the size of crunch become at that point? You see, the article ignores one little part. For all intent and purpose, games tend to surf at the very edge of technology.  In some cases the makers will attempt to get the max of a system that is at times a little buggy and when you try to use 99% of the system, things tend to go pear shaped really fast. We can offer that the danger of being over ambitious is a bad thing, but this is how some games came into existence. The very first Unreal and Unreal tournament were both chartering the maximum of graphical capability when they were released. Some people invested hundreds of dollars to get a Diamond Labs Graphics card to get the maximum of the game. This is only the tip of the iceberg, when we see consoles there is less manoeuvrability, yet getting the maximum of a game has never stopped the developers. That part is not addressed and that part is every bit as important in dealing with the timeline and QA of a game.

Yet, it is not as much as it was (or so they say), but making the great hit at the E3 or another main release date is the main drive of crunch, especially when the final piece of the development puzzle does not quite fit. That part might be addressed in the management charter, but we must also be realistic that a great game takes time to develop, which made a statement given by Ubisoft “We are able to offer people a new Assassin’s Creed every year because they want Assassin’s Creed every year” nothing more than a joke. Especially if they wanted to rule the gaming industry. In addition I would like to raise that the next big thing is supposed to be ‘No Man’s Sky‘ which will arrive in 2015. We must realistically anticipate that the hype gets away from us all, but it is still seen as the big thing. It took several years, which gives additional view to the hilariousness of: “Ubisoft: No Annual ‘Assassin’s Creed’ Would Be ‘Very Stupid’“, it is such an issue because true innovation takes time, consider on how certain glitches had been around in AC2, AC2B, AC3 and AC Revelations. I can understand that some of these glitches were around in the second game, but to still have those issues 2 games after that is just a laughing matter. There is a reason for me to mention Ubisoft, not because I am ‘so’ against them (I truly am not), but their track record speaks for themselves. So will 2015 be an EA year? That part remains to be seen, however, as I see it at present, there is enough indication that Ubisoft had been hit by burnout staff (assumption on my side). Will a change of atmosphere give us better games? I certainly hope so, because games thrive on the creative and innovative mind, a state that crunch time seems to destroy. This is not just my view, there are loads of views out in the open, some scholarly, some less so, most of them all agree that crunch time and creativity are opposites, so why rely on it? My personal view is that in several cases, these companies (the big ones) didn’t choose the wrong style of management, they choose the wrong sort of manager altogether.

If you doubt my words (which is always fair enough), then consider which games were the true big hits and how they were made. The age old example remains the strongest one. Minecraft was never a big project, yet Microsoft regarded it to be worth over 2 billion. a simple low res game, addictive as hell is worth more than the bulk of the gaming industry, you see, Ubisoft and Electronic Arts both made the same mistake, as they ‘relied’ on a business approach with BI solutions and spreadsheets, they forgot their number one part. If a game is no fun, you lose all your customers really fast. They both made that mistake in huge ways. Both forgetting that their games rely on innovation and creativity, both have ad massive losses in that regard. Will Ubisoft recover? That is hard to say, the EA machine is claiming improvement and it seems that Mass Effect 4 will be their greatest test. EA got hurt badly by Sims 4 and Battlefield, we should also look at ‘Dragon Age: Inquisition is great, but here are 8 things it could do much better‘ on GamesRadar, because when we read that this is a 100 hour game and it loses momentum, we can agree that $100 for a game that could be played within 2 weeks is a little demotivating. It goes back to long before Infamous: Second Son (which is just one of the games that could have been legend), I think that the makers need to retrace their steps on how many hours a game should offer. No matter how good the graphics are, I finished Tombraider in one weekend, which is not good mojo money, especially when you consider that the initial edition (on PS1, 19 years earlier) took a lot longer and was riddled with juicy little challenges. Aren’t games supposed to go forward on more sides than mere graphical resolution?

So as we judge those who make the games we desire, we see that those thinking that they are pushing towards what we desire, only end up delivering a lessened product due to pressures from too many sides, not in the least pressures that they internally created. Even delays (Watchdogs and Elder Scrolls Online) end up not being solutions, in case of the Elder Scrolls, with so many delays that the latest tells us June 2015, has been the reason for many people to just cancel the order altogether. The fact that Elder Scrolls has dropped the subscription part shows just how dangerous their position has been. Here I do want to brag a little, because I came up with an entirely new Elder Scrolls almost two years ago, one that could have saved them many issues as they tried to ‘fix’ their MMO approach. Just as consoles require great games to survive, great games require the right people, people who need to be well rested to get them that golden idea that will make legend. Watchdogs did get a lot closer due to the delay, but what if the difference between 84% and 93% was two weeks of rest? That one golden idea that drove the game to legend status? Is it realistic? You see in hindsight that is all good and well for me to claim, but that is AFTER the fact. I believe my view is the right one, they just needed the right manager to inspire them a little further along, but as always, it is a personal view and it is a debatable one, I do admit to that part.

 

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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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