Tag Archives: Ubisoft

Games and more

Yes, the E3 is upon us, it is now mere hours away and anyone who is into gaming will be hyped to see what comes. It might be about their franchise, it might be about a maker, or it will be a little more generic. No matter how we slice it the next 4 days will be about that is likely to come, what will be hyped and let’s not forget the giveaways, free DLC codes and optionally the speculated hardware.

What makes the headline?

It is important to see the headline in this, and the headline is Google Stadia. We see several sources giving us information, yet the direct impact is there and it is less positive than one might gather. Let’s look at two quotes, first there is Techradar giving us: “A world in which all you ever have to do to start gaming is open up your browser, select a game and start playing – no lengthy download required. This could soon become a reality if Google’s cloud gaming service, Stadia, delivers on its promises – you’ll be able to go from opening a Chrome tab to playing a 4K, 60fps game, in five seconds, no installation required“, this seems awesome, yet I have been around long enough in this business to notice that when someone states ‘look left’ I also ‘look right’. So when I look to the right, I see PC Gamer giving us ‘Stadia 4K streaming will use up 1TB of data in 65 hours‘ and that is not a good thing. Now, we all accept that gaming takes power and resources, yet 4K gaming in a setting where in some countries that could set you back $1,000 per month is not something you want to consider. Here in Australia (no Google Stadia coming here for now), a person pays (when it is not unlimited) $10 per GB, so that adds up really fast in a non-unlimited contract stage, yet with unlimited there has been noise that above a certain usage the download speed gets throttled, so there could optionally be that risk to consider.

Before we start crying, there is the additional info given with “That works out to around 15.75GB per hour of 4K streaming, 9GB per hour of 1080p, or 4.5GB per hour at 720p“, when you have a 1TB contract, which is a lot, you get 65 hours, 110 hours, or 227 hours of gaming. So options 2 and three should be fine, it is a reality to face that 4K gaming is not immediately available for usage for all, and that is beside the setting whether you have a 4K TV or not.

Gizmodo

Gizmodo was a lot less positive (at https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2019/06/is-stadia-already-screwed/), and when we see: “We have an updated guidance here,” he said. “You actually need 10 Mbps to stream at least 720p, but actually, it could be higher depending on specific details of the kind of network situation or your game. And then to comfortably stream 4K—the best experience—we recommend 35Mbps.” It takes out all the wireless 4G players, they can pretty much forget about it and even in the lowest mode there will be issues, even if you are with a major Australian player like Optus, it is the direct impact of bandwidth and it is likely to remain an issue in the foreseeable future, yet only until you get 5G, at that point speed is no longer an issue, total usage might remain, but that is depending on the providers and no one has any clear information at present which makes sense for now.

The writer gives us: “as long as it’s streaming over a broken internet, it’s fucked” at the very end, which is only a truth for today, and even then it is still only a partial truth. Google has been playing the long game for enough time to know that anyone getting 5G will seriously consider Google Stadia, especially Online players in MMO games. It gets to be even better when you consider the Verge who has the list (at https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/6/18655380/google-stadia-games-list-cloud-streaming-service-e3-2019), It includes the newest games as well as other games like DOOM Eternal, Rage 2, The Elder Scrolls Online, Wolfenstein: Youngblood, Final Fantasy XV, Tomb Raider Definitive Edition, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, NBA 2K, Borderlands 3, Mortal Kombat 11, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Just Dance, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, Trials Rising, and The Crew 2. I believe that to be a decent start of any service. There is a little too much uncertainty on pricing; one source gave me $10 per month for a pro license, which is not outlandish when you consider the game list. In addition Google Stadia has started its own game development studio, headed by Jade Raymond. A well-known producer who has earned her marks at both EA and Ubisoft.

In this regard, I believe it might be seen as a rocky start, but not a fatal one, in the long run Google is now set up to remain a force to be reckoned with. I also disagree with the view that Forbes has. Paul Tassi gives us trivialisation like ‘this offers something like Microsoft’s Game Pass the ability to eat Stadia’s lunch‘, which is true, yet Microsoft never fixed their problems, did they? Not in 6 years, and as he gives us: “While Google is indeed starting to develop its own games in-house, it could take years for those to arrive, and there’s absolutely zero guarantee of their quality when they do“, this is true too, yet the failing of quality by Ubisoft has been noted for years, what has he done about it to illustrate that? And when we saw the lack of Microsoft exclusives last year, the mention of ‘their lengthy roster of must-have exclusives‘ should be regarded as work in progress. That few to none part is easily rectified, and even the PS4 had loads of long delays for some of their games and exclusives, with the Ubisoft Watchdogs the delay was long enough to get your wife pregnant and still not being able to play the game until the child was born, so pot and kettle are both utensils of a similar colour in this setting.

Then we get the last overstated statement with: “but with 200 million consoles sold every year and untold number of gaming PCs“, I wonder how he got those numbers, over 6 years Sony sold 93 million consoles, Microsoft is on that same stage at 41 million at best and Nintendo in 2 years got to 34 million, so his math is in the toilet as well, unless he includes the handhelds which is a skewed finding, still there the 200 milllion a year will not be reached, not even close.

I believe that Google is an early starter in a stage where Microsoft hoped to get their Scarlett (whatever they named it in 2018) system, I am not sure it has a real chance, but I have been wrong before, it might work, Google on the other hand still has a lot to learn and optional plenty of promises to break, time will tell where they go, but there is space to succeed, especially when 5G arrives at homes it is then that Google Stadia truly gets an option to earn its laurels, and it is likely to do so.

There is a part that matters, Paul rightfully asks the question: “it’s hard to know how this actually poses a threat to traditional industry staples like Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft“, it does not as such, but Google has the option to grow on the side, the fact that many consoles have online and multiplayer issues (mostly due to the software), we see the setting where this failing falls away (having to download massive patches again and again will not be an issue for the Google Stadia), MS Scarlett might have been the initial option, but Microsoft has issues and they have also been in denial of that to some degree (that is my personal view).

As I stated it will be a rocky start, yet those with a good internet stage and a decent income will have this option there as early adopters. For these people they have no interest in walking into a game shop trying to find a game, Google Stadia, like Netflix lets you browse and try and try and try, until you find something you like. It is optionally the stage where gamers are born and is Google Stadia the worst place to start gaming? For years people started their gaming habit on Facebook and was that such a hi-res 4K solution?

Paul Tassi asks good questions and they are real questions that need answering, but he also overlooks (as a hard-core gamer) on something he forgets. When a person wants to do 4K gaming, he needs a console or a PC, when you see the cost of a good 4K system; you have the risk of cardiac pressure issues. With Console, will you go Sony, or Microsoft? The fact that Google is now option 3, but not set in hardware is a choice, an option, one that was not there before. So what is needed? An internet connection and a TV, yes when you look deeper it is a 2 choice system, now with option 3. He is right, there are issues (for now) and I believe that with the arrival of 5G many issues will resolve itself immediately, yet at that point, will Google be standing as a survivor? I believe that with the right games it will and that too is the setting for the E3, how much more support for Stadia will we see. It seems that Ubisoft is on board and so is Bethesda, yet how many more players will commit to Google Stadia? That is where Google Stadia could win making unique or remastered good games. There are dozens who could become Stadia hits, 3 generations of games that are still regarded by some as excellent games, some are even legendary.

We will just have to see and wait how it all unfolds, there is plenty of space for a new player in this game and it also means that some of the other players will have to up the ante to remain a choice with consumers, which is equally a good idea.

Then there is another reason, for well over a year we have seen the stage: “a higher-end Xbox One X replacement as well as a less-expensive entry-level machine“, yet there is a host of issues especially with Microsoft, can the entry model update to high end? If that is not possible will we see any other impact on gaming? Will Microsoft keep their bully to ‘be online’ issues. Will Microsoft force advertisements on their consoles (like with the Xbox One)?

Microsoft has lost so much credibility (as I personally see it), the fact that the correlation between entry model and Google Stadia is so high that plenty might consider Google over Microsoft and I think that they know this. Another issue is how close Microsoft streaming service ProjectXCloud is next to Google Stadia, all issues that will optionally come head to head in the next 4 days. We can lose time reading on speculations or wait, I decide you need to wait and even better watch the live shows on YouTube.

The biggest issue will be on the last day, Nintendo have amazed nearly all with the Switch and all they have done in these two years, now that the larger games are due this year, it will be a sight to see, at the very end one or two little spoilers. It seems that Sony has gotten themselves in a little spot of hot water. Tom’s Hardware (at https://www.tomsguide.com/us/ps5-120hz-ps4-cross-save,news-30268.html) gives us: ‘120Hz Display Support‘, this is really good news if it was not for the fact that most 4K TV’s, even the ones from Sony do not support this speed yet, so yes the PS5 will be a sight to see, when you  get the TV that supports it. Then there is crossover play, so you can continue your ps4 games on ps5 forth and back (switching between consoles so you do not lose anything like friend lists and game saves, this is really good news, and a nice feature to have when you get the console in 2020. I have my mind set on that and do away my Xbox One completely, the one game I bought it for is on Sony as well now so there is no reason to keep it around any further, especially when it options me to remove Microsoft from all considerations, it is not like they have been considerate.

Even as it is about the games, I do hope to see some hardware as well.

See you all on the flip side, and don’t forget to seek the YouTube streams of the E3, missing out is such a drag.

 

 

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Bones and Boobs in gaming

Gaming has two sides, the hardware and the software side, or as some might call it the boobs and bones of gaming. We will look at the boobs later (desert always comes last), yet the bones are another matter. Forbes (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2019/06/04/there-are-tough-times-ahead-for-the-playstation-4-and-xbox-one/#3ca33e3562b4) gives us ‘There Are Tough Times Ahead For The PlayStation 4 And Xbox One‘, I do not really agree, and if so then mostly for the Xbox side, but the man makes a decent point and that is always a good reason to contemplate an article.

Bones

Even as he makes the case, I believe him to be wrong on certain matters. The numbers only partially support him. In case of Microsoft, they had a good run on the Xbox360 and they had decent sales even beyond the Xbox One launch. The reasons was that those with too small a budget decided to pick up a pre-owned console as those prices went down by a lot. Even today, people still buy Xbox 360 games, which is pretty astounding. The premise holds true for the PS3, from day one the PS4 was the child to have and for the next two years there will be plenty of people upgrading from PS4 to PS4 pro as Sony will be dumping the prices for that puppy. The market will slow down, but I believe that Sony has a good foundation to work with, Microsoft a little less so.

Nintendo remains the larger question in this. They are still ascending by leaps and bounds and even now we see in Forbes (three weeks ago actually) ‘The Nintendo Switch Just Topped The PS4’s Lifetime Sales In Japan‘, and that sounds overwhelming, yet the global numbers with PS4 on 97 million and Switch on 35 million gives the equal global sales towards the Xbox, but not the PlayStation. It has only been two years, whilst the other two have been around 7, the Nintendo Switch is still gaining momentum and it is doing so faster than last year. The fact that two of the most enticing (and addictive) games are free helps matters. With Fallout Shelter and Gems of war being great games to play on the Switch, we see a larger appreciation of the console. Nintendo upped the ante by handing all those with an online subscription (less than $40 a year), we see that they all get access to the old games from Donkey Kong, Metroid and Super Mario Bros, with dozens of additional games, all for free for those with the online account. It is one of the most enticing deals you will find in console land. As such the Switch goes on and on and on. That and the pre-owned market makes me oppose the view that Dave Thier has to some degree. the part that is also in debate is “I could even imagine PlayStation 4 sales recovering after the PlayStation 5 comes out and people realize they can still get good use of the old machine, which is likely to see a price-cut“, I believe that he setting is sound, yet I have seen Sony Marketing in action, as such they will cut prices on all options long before the sales recovery issue becomes a real issue for Sony. With exclusive titles like Last of Us 2 (2020), Death Stranding, Sekiro, Ghosts of Tsushima (2020), there is everything to look forward to and besides the fact that there are still plenty of people without a PS4 (or Xbox One for that matter), many of us (including me) still have not upgraded to the PS4pro (a budget issue), for many mainly because we have no 4K TV and that is the big factor (equally so for the Xbox One X), so as Sony starts bundling it’s console with a 4K TV, we might see another rush to upgrade. With several brands (including Sony) offering 55” or larger 4K TV’s for less than $1000 at present, the push for package deals will be very alive at the end of this year pushing the options of additional consoles right up to 2020 at that point the PS5 (and whatever Microsoft has) will become an optional issue. We have seen that many day one people held on to their previous console. I still have the PS3 and Xbox 360; I just never expected that the 360 would be higher regarded than the Xbox One (by me). These are all elements that play a part, as such I partially oppose the view Forbes gave us and I believe to be handing out the correct version (I have been proven correct often enough).

I agree with his slowing down part, but not to the degree he expects it, and the additional factor is not the slowing down, it might be: “New consoles pose question marks for the industry, and people are inclined to wait for answers before making large purchases“. I believe that to be the correct statement, but there was one other factor, it is 4K gaming and that is slow because the larger group of gamers does not have a 4K TV at present, as 4K will be the bees knees this Christmas, we will see a push to a much larger degree and Sony has an advantage over Sony here. It is how I got my PS3 and I never regretted that, especially as that TV was dirt cheap in those days, I expect Sony to do the same caper this year (and other brands as well), which is as I see it the larger stage for the difference between Dave Thier and me, as well as the large purchasing part, there is no ‘wait for answers‘ anymore on 4K TV, as such it optionally prevents a larger slowdown on the consoles and to be honest, you need to see Xbox One 4K with AC Origin to believe just how amazing 4K can be, it blew my socks off let me tell you that; and yes it was on a Xbox One X. Ubisoft & Microsoft actually got that part truly right.

Boobs

Yup, we got there, or as the Bloodhound Gang would state: ‘Hooray for Boobies‘ Yet the software is always a happy place for any gamer, whether it is Minecraft or Spiderman, seeing stuff in 4K is always reason to cheer. So when we look at value how angry do we need to get? When we are confronted with a AAA game (triple A game) we think it will be about quality, but it is not. It merely means that the game comes from a ‘mid-sized or major publisher, typically having higher development and marketing‘ and as I see it, it will be mostly about the marketing. So here comes Ubisoft who as far as I can tell is the only one who truly mangled and downgraded the IP of two franchises, namely Assassins Creed and optionally now Far Cry.

In comes a hard truth: ‘AAA game development has been identified as one environment where crunch time and other working pressures that negatively affect the employees are particularly evident‘, a given that is handed to us by Tweaktown and GamaSutra. In Tweaktown we see: ‘Ex-Ubisoft dev reveals the grim reality‘ with the quote: “it’s more like a mechanized assembly line than a dream job“, this might be a true stage, yet in all this it is not the creators, it is its board of directors as well as their marketing department. Like several software makers, setting a realistic goal is not something either department is any good at; the horrendous Far Cry 5 is clearly evidence of that. I completely disagree with the ratings that IGN (89%) and the 81% that Metacritic gave, I fall in line towards Digital Trends and their 60%. There should be a stage that games like that can no longer be called AAA games when its rating to become this below average. I even have some reservations on the games I traded in for this new version (at $23). Far Cry 5 infuriates me; they really had to do a better job. Not the graphics guys (gals included), graphically Montana is so overwhelmingly amazing that I would be willing to move to Hope County with the next available flight (if there is a decent job there). The story is something I leave in the middle. It is over the top, but there is a side that is actually enticing and you haven’t felt hatred until you are getting a tattoo on your chest by John Seed, the characters (even the over the top ones) are impressive. It is the game play itself that got to me in a massive way. To name just a few:

  1. Planes that touch a tree top dead in their track and in some cases end up on the ground in perfect working order without a scratch.
  2. Like the screaming eagles in Far Cry Primal (one every other minute) the stage comes when planes are there and they are there all the time, I have shot down enough to make a nation go bankrupt, but not for the Seed family, they merely seed more planes (or is that conceive?) And it is not merely me; I found hundreds of posts of gamers irritated by that, it seems that some people at Ubisoft are unwilling to learn.
  3. Spawn, not the Todd McFarlane hero, but the spawning of opponents. In a bunker scene (trying to avoid spoilers), the troops started spawning in front of me, which is a big no-no! This all indicates that the game was either never clearly tested, or the test results were ignored, either way that is an easy 20% degrading on any 89% score, so we are already on 69%. The fact that these issues were never addressed one year down the road implies additional failings on the Ubisoft front.
  4. Ballistics anyone? I love my sniper rifles, it gives me an edge and even in a bunker, the rifle can be a huge advantage, even if you only have 35 bullets to work with (unless you find more ammo). So when that rifle suddenly does not kill with a head shot, but only knock of the helmet, I am speechless. You see, anyone who knows their weapons would know that a helmet is protecting in nature, but the impact of a .50 that travels at 3,029 feet/second giving an impact of 13,350 ft-lbf (foot pound force) does not merely take off the helmet, it rips of the entire head. Now I get and accept that Ubisoft is not giving us that image, but to not see a headshot as an immediate kill is just stupid and silly. That should be 35 instant kills, even in the chest the power alone will crush the chest to death, and no Kevlar thickness in the world will stop that.
  5. The enemy avalanche. I get that throughout the game, it becomes more and more taxing, but the boss fights with wave after wave, where topless people keep running after 5-7 shots is just silly. And it is not 2-3 we get thrown into a stage of dozens and Ubisoft is unable to learn that wave after wave gets to be tedious and actually does not make a game better. Now there is an arcade more and I am not touching it, arcade is arcade and there the rules tend to be slightly different, which is fair enough. Yet in the normal game, Ubisoft makes the same mistakes we saw in Far Cry Primal and Far Cry 4. What was Far Cry 3 has become less and less (as I personally see it).

There is a lot Ubisoft got right too and the extra’s (like the Vaas outfit) and particularly the outfits you get when you have another Ubisoft game is cool, an immediate reward for those who have other Ubisoft games like the Rainbow six outfit is actually really cool to see (I did not have the game so it did not unlock for me), but the effort towards its gamers must be recognised. The bubbleheads (for in the car) if you have certain games is also cool and gives a little extra a fact that has always mattered to gamers.

Tweak town gives a lot more, but when I read: “When people realize they’re just one very replaceable person on a massive production chain, you can imagine it impacts their motivation“, I see it and it might impact, but that is an HR problem, not on my watch here, it is an element I care not for at present. There is also: “How do you get the right message to the right people? You can’t communicate everything to everyone, there’s just too much information. There are hundreds of decisions being taken every week. Inevitably, at some point, someone who should have been consulted before making a decision will be forgotten. This creates frustration over time” that is an issue, it is management that is either not there, not properly ready or even worse, it is ignorant. That also gives light to the connection of testing, an issue that Ubisoft has had for at least a decade. The experience that even now in Far cry 5, the event of looting a corpse and switching the weapon they dropped are nearly always overlapping, making a quick grab for ammo impossible and at times even disastrous. An issue not fixed since Far Cry 3. The article (at https://www.tweaktown.com/news/49863/ex-ubisoft-dev-reveals-grim-reality-aaa-games-development/index.html) had a few more items, but it was less important for me in this case. Gamasutra (at https://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/282922/AAA_game_dev_lifestyle_is_unwinnable_says_veteran_game_designer_Amy_Hennig.php) gives a few more items, issues like: “There are people who never go home and see their families. They have children who are growing up without seeing them” get a different rating, it is either a lack of time management, or slave labour, one is a choice the other is criminal; you tell me which is which. Yes, I trivialise the issue here, but at some stage you need to recharge and if you decide not to do that, you burn out. It is the quote: “It’s pressure that rolls downhill and piles onto those behind the industry’s biggest releases, forcing them to go above and beyond to meet rapidly approaching deadlines” that hits pay dirt, they either haven’t learned to neuter their marketing department, or the board members have forgotten what realistic time frames are. Either way it tends to stop proper game testing and that is how we get a screwed up product and we have seen that from AC Unity onwards, Ubisoft has had way too many events like that. As such as we see the quote referring to ‘over-expectant publishers‘, the view we see matches mine pretty much flawless. If you cannot control your marketeers with their hype creation, you fall flat and you get the pressures that should have been avoided in the first place. The evidence is there too, for example Project red with Witcher 3 as well as Cyberpunk 2077. There no one is fussed about the 2020 release, we all know that they broke the mould with Witcher 3 and we want to see that again, we the gamers are willing to wait for excellence, mainly because it has become such a rare thing. A 93% rating comes at a price. It is the oldest stage of sales.

You can have something cheap, something fast and something good, but you can only chose two of the three elements, so the product ends up arriving slow, becoming a bad product or an expensive one, which of those three can you live with the best? Of those three the late arrival is the best (my personal view), but as far as Ubisoft goes, they got that choice wrong more than once, because they were unwilling to delay the release late, costing them points all over the place. It is me not liking Odyssey that requires me to quote Samuel Axon who wrote a massive story on ArsTechnica. He ends with: “Odyssey was not a perfect game. But it was the perfect game to win back this series superfan. It’s so good, I want to go back and replay older games in the series—even some of the bad ones—just to examine and appreciate the evolution“, I get his vision yet it is not my view on the game and that is fine. Ubisoft does not need to appease me, it needs to protect its IP and there we might not see eye to eye on the matter. This is fine, I am merely one view and that too needs to be taken into account, Samuel clearly had another view on the take and I accept it because the article (at https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2019/03/i-played-11-assassins-creed-games-in-11-years-and-odyssey-made-them-all-worth-it) is an absolute must for any Assassins Creed fan.

When I look back, no matter how much we like to stare at the boobies, when they are not the ones (or shape, or size) you hoped to see, the interest fades really fast (unless you are a hungry baby) and that is the core for Ubisoft, the absolute essential part was proper testing and fixing (optionally with a day one patch) is something they seemingly have not been steered towards for too long and it shows. As I see it, they efficiently massacred two IP’s at present; the question becomes what will happen with Watchdogs 3? When we accept (I do) that the second was way better than the first, I fear for the third, because they need to get it right. I only got Far Cry 5 well over a year later when it was sold at a mere 17% of the full price gives rise to what we are willing to pay. When you consider that this was a game with a budget close to $100 million and a rising amount of gamers will no longer consider it at full price, and even as it made $310 million, how much money did Ubisoft in the end miss out on? Going home with $200 more is still good, but what could they have gotten? I wonder if they learn this lesson too late, perhaps it is me and perhaps I expect too much from the gamers of today. I merely chase excellence in gaming, and a game that is created substandard will not ever give a feeling of excellence, which is sad on many levels, especially when someone forked out an 9 figure number.

Just consider that GTA5 made $6 billion so far, Red Dead Redemption had a $725 million opening weekend, and that list goes on, all games that have a 90% score of better. It shows when we see that (according to VGChartz) Far Cry 5 seemingly sold less than 4 million copies, God of war far beyond 11 million, and that is also set toUbisoft being on three systems, whilst God of War was on only one system. I see it as the main difference between a 70% game and a 95% game. A difference of 250% or better in sold copies. I reckon that Ubisoft needs to focus on quality a lot more than they are currently doing and that view is shared by global player on an increasing larger scale endangering Ubisoft initial revenue more and more.

 

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Electronic Entertainment Expo 2019

After last year there were issues, several on all fronts, and as Sony announced not to attend, we see the larger question, is there a need for E3? From my personal point of view, Microsoft will not be trustworthy (after their choices between the Xbox 360 and now), making it a Nintendo & Indie show, now, I am all for that and it could be awesome, but that is no longer an actual E3. Also, we will see the front carried by a few titles, yet they did so too last year and the blip verts show many images of what we saw last year too.

So as I use GamesRadar (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNCFmrkqQuY) as a handhold, let’s take a look at what we could optionally consider not watching in person there.

  1. Cyberpunk 2077. Yes, we saw a lot, we saw a lot before and for the most, we have blind trust in CD Project Red, they gave us the goods from the very start ‘You’ll see it when it is ready’ and with the Witcher III as evidence, we have all the confidence that it will be a smash winner when it is finished, the problem is that everyone is speculating or giving ‘I know a guy and it comes at …….‘, but the truth is CD Project RED has not giving a final date, if there is one, it will most likely be given at the E3 2019.
  2. Gears of War 5, it seems to be more of the same, it was never my cup of tea and as such, I hope people will love it, I truly do, but I see it as too much of the same, just like the next HALO which has number 3 and even as 4 player part might be nice, yet after Anthem, and every version connected to it (exception of Fortnite and Overwatch) I have seen enough to last me a lifetime, so the orchestra part was definitely overkill
  3. Another Star Wars game? Likely an absolute must for every Star Wars fan, I am not judging here, merely awaiting to see real game play.
  4. Session, a skateboarding game. It comes from Microsoft, so we will have to await the actual game footage and YouTube video to see what the actuality of that game is, personally I am kind of over all the Microsoft marketing, and we will likely see more on Crackdown 3, the game that was announced in 2014, coming in 2016, and has had delay after delay and is still not out. A game that is years too late, supposed to be AAA and gets a mere 57% from Metacritic, I think it was PC Gamer that gave us “It’s an OK game that could’ve been exciting a decade ago“, so as we were given presentation after presentation on the of Cloudgine for cloud computing support, we see the entire part blown out of the water. This now interacts with my article ‘At the end of a journey‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2019/04/14/at-the-end-of-a-journey/) where we see the issue of Tim Stuart, Microsoft CFO giving us: “Xbox CFO on Google Stadia: “Cloud Won’t Match Local Experience”“, yes we said that for decades, making Crackdown 3 a joke at the very least and the years of delay a questionable side in what Microsoft regards as game design.

There are a few more games, some definitely interesting of checking out and a few to race for to the release date shop. Bethesda will be present with another Doom, for the lovers of that type of game a decent must. Ubisoft will try to wet the appetite with more ‘Beyond good and evil 2‘ yet there is no indication that there will be anything playable and GamesRadar as well as a few others have been whispering NextGen, so this might be a PS5 and whatever Microsoft puts on the market with an expected optional ‘always online‘ push by badly facilitating, and lets not forget the massive amount of space reserved for advertisement on your Xbox screen.

Nintendo will be killing the show, the next Pokémon is already making waves at present, so the impact will only increase, and that is merely the beginning, there will be an animal crossing, an exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance for Nintendo Switch, which must anger all the other consoles, as the previous two had quite the impact on gaming. And no matter how others slice it, the Nintendo Store with Switch version of CBM-64 golden games is only increasing the desire to own a Nintendo Switch, the idea to replay the Epyx great ‘Impossible Mission’ is just too fantastic to ignore.

We will get another call to Dying Light 2, yet at present no actual reliable release date as well as third installments of Luigi’s mansion and Borderland, both a reason to watch, both have a following and both have creatively emphasized on fun. There are more and more titles that are looking good (also on the Xbox), the makers of Fallout New Vegas and now part of Microsoft will be bringing the Outer Worlds. For those who remember Fallout New Vegas, consider an RPG, a lot larger, with more options, more challenges and more choices, there is zero chance that this game is not on the wish list of anyone who loves RPG’s, which is fair enough, Microsoft can’t get everything wrong. For Ubisoft it will be an important moment, Watchdogs 3 is on the list and according to rumours it will now be based in London. It is important because the first game became a massive letdown, yet Watchdogs repaired it to a decent degree in number two, not in the least because of the cast of Ruffin Prentiss who did an amazing job. So for Ubisoft the stakes are nothing short of monumental, they cannot afford to mess this one up. As I personally see it the Quality department better have their marbles in a row on this one. Ubisoft will have more if some of the leaks are to be believed. So their show, as well as the Bethesda one are the shows to be in the top ones both seasoned with the anticipation from viewers and gaming fanatics alike.

Gaming is more and more true mainstream, but it is also splintering gamers to a larger degree, in part we can blame people like Fortnite. It is not really their fault, they made genuine innovations, and more and more people nowadays expect that the system is no longer an issue when you are playing with your friends, which is actually no longer a given. With newbies Apple and Google, the interaction of games across platforms becomes a larger issue and no longer a given. Yet the audience is pushing and setting for a stage that remains debatable. Is it fair to expect PC’s and next generation consoles to group play?

The option that Microsoft consoles will interact with PC’s is to be expected, but is that stage equal for PS5 other solutions (Mac systems)? I am not claiming a yes or no, merely asking the question. If anything happens in the 5G stage, it will be that those interactions will find a larger footing, whether it will happen gets a TBA (to be announced) flag for now.

As I said Ubisoft has Watchdogs 3 nearly on ready is a large issue, on the plus side, if they pull it off, the value of the Watchdogs Franchise will skyrocket, mainly because the second in San Francisco was a large step forward from the first. The idea of London is appealing to many in other ways, the American population that needs to adjust to driving on the left lane is going to set the stage of many hilarious moments and the open world of London could be breathtaking. They gave us a great experience in San Francisco, so I expect nothing less than spectacular. It also implies that my idea for Watchdogs 3 could be an optional Watchdogs 4, so let’s just hope that game 3 knocks it out of the park. The only larger question will be Bethesda, they have confirmed that there will be no Elder Scrolls 6 or Starfield, which is nice to know, but Bethesda has a lot more IP so there is likely to be plenty to watch, and to be honest after all the slicing and dicing of Fallout 76, they need a win, a big win would be better.

In all this we see more of the same, the IP has stagnated to some degree, Minecraft (2009), Skyrim (2011), Grand Theft Auto V (2013), Elite Dangerous (2014), Witcher III (2015), No Mans Sky (2016), Fortnite (2017), all great moments of IP. I now distinguish between IP and a great game; they often go hand in hand, but not always. I believe that sandbox games, RPG games and tactical games will overlap more and more and will for the growing population of new gamers to be more and more important as well. We saw what could have been possible to some degree in Ghost Recon Wildlands, but not to the degree that could have been achieved. I believe that this is the IP that Google Stadia can build on.

Say What?

To see this, we need to look at the two stages of gaming. For the most, the games have a combined approach (the image is an analogy), so there are parts in the game that are used and in the core of the game, accessed when it is applicable. Yet another way is to take the Covert Action (an old Microprose game) approach, but now a next generation version. In this version in any sandbox, as we add a new element, the world would actually become bigger, or there would be more to do in that same world.

It was the foundation when I started the design of a game called: ‘Equilibrium, nature versus the machine‘. The biggest elements were finding a large enough play field (in my case Amsterdam), and set the stage where replayability would be more fun, so the stage required a very different approach, so that people could not chase from one point to the other to get a quickest time finale. In addition, I needed to set a stage where it would not merely be some kind of a ‘seek’ game (which is too much of a given when you finish the game more than once). In addition, there is the eye candy bit, so making sure it looks appealing and not repetitive was equally a challenge. For the most Amsterdam filled that bill. Yet, as I was contemplating the foundations for Elder Scrolls 7 and Watchdogs 4 I knew that they all had their hang-ups (not in a bad way), in every case it was what the player (in my case me) relied on, I wanted to change that concept, and in all honesty after hundreds of hours of Diablo 3 it felt an essential first to solve.

No man’s sky gave me additional idea’s. We look at it as some kind of failure, but the game is an achievement in many ways. If we accept that the worlds were set to a formula, what happens if we change this world into a formula and let the NoManSky IP recreate that world again and again? Then I considered what could one day be another Watchdog game, in this I wanted to push the envelope in another way. Hence I considered the stage where Kyoto was completely set to the game map, and I mean EVERY street. The game would now be large enough to keep a person busy for hundreds of hours and in the gender setting the game would have 4 versions two for each gender and each gender could get through the game as a criminal or a non-criminal, so the city had a light and a dark side. The interesting part about Japan is the lack of guns (and super strict gun laws) forcing stealth and forcing unarmed combat. As the monkey fist was a brilliant choice in the second Watchdogs, there was the option to keep it in, but also to make other weapons, weapons not to bleed, but to knock out. The nice part is that Japan has about 4 centuries of weapons in their history, so plenty of options. Technology (read: applied technology) is also more advanced (in many cases), so letting the game revolve not merely on the smartphone, but also Google glasses and the fact that in the hard setting there will be no English, gives light to a much bigger challenge. Having to rely on you wearing Google glasses (in the game that is) to read signs and to read instructions in the game to get your local language was appealing for a few reasons. It makes the game a much larger part of you. Adding weather and time constraints adds to the challenge and excitement. We forgot that the ‘you’ in your character was neglected more and more is also a consideration, having to eat and sleep on a regular basis could translate into a larger experience.

Finally the part where the elements come to shine; as we look at the coloured balls, we can see that mixing blue and red would create purple and between blue and dark yellow we would get a moss green. Now consider replacing the colour for a level, in normal mode hacking is one version, yet when we tweak that it is not pressing a button, we could replace the button with code segments that need to be found (and chosen), drastically increasing the challenge of the game, so what is a joy and still a challenge as well as an achievement on normal could be a mind boggling experience on hard and higher. So the smartphone could be upgraded, other versions of the (in game) app, also gives more options and buying an up scaled phone (more expensive) would give the player more destinations where he/she could strike it rich. Yet giving merely more and more is not enticing either, the added plus needs to be balanced with the drag in the negative.

It is what I envisioned in a new Elder Scrolls, adding the old limits. For example a person could not be fighter guild and mercenary (Blackwood company), a Mages Guild member could not be a member of the Thieves Guild and so on, so that at the most 3 guilds could be joined and until one guild had been completed some guilds could not be started. In this setting the game becomes more fulfilling, even in replay, as you start the second game with the Mages guild or the guild of Necromancy would impact your character to a much larger degree. To keep it appealing the setting of what used to be called the red wire challenge, a challenge that is not part of any main quest and happens over the entire stage of the game, so I came up with another challenge, to get there you needed masons, as well as special books (to be found) you could influence the look of the outcome with an Elvish, a Dwemer, the Imperial and the Ayleid version, all having distinct different looks and as the books are to be found in a different locations in every game, the hunt could be on for quite a while. With the introduction of new elements, reverting to an applied extra from Oblivion, So in the game there would be the option for Strength, Intelligence, Willpower, Agility, Speed, Endurance, Personality and Luck to be increased in other ways. Mining would result in additional strength, trading gives additional Personality, and Luck would grow with trade deals, finding mythic loot and so on, so even as the Skyrim approach of Illusion, Conjuration, Restoration, Alteration, Enchanting, Smithing and so on remains, with certain levels of Smithing and/or Mining surpassed the player would also gain additional strength, which gives added value to the carry and stamina numbers, whilst sickness and wounds have a much stronger negative impact. So a stealth master remains with attributes in the same area, any stealth master would have much higher agility giving the player an additional bonus. In addition, the stage of the game as I considered it had additional choices making for a much higher desire to replay the game in other ways and options. And as I went through it, it was the idea of changing the map in another way, As Oblivion was stated to be 40 KM2, Skyrim was stated to be 37 KM2 (this is clearly a: I thought it was bigger moment) ESVII (Restoration) would be no less than 780 KM2, adding to the game in a massive way, yet that also gave the stage where the current approach to a game map would no longer work (assumption on my side), so another approach would be essential. Optionally a two disc solution where the first disc is the install and map disc, the second one would be the actual game disc, yet in that stage the game would require a reserved space of no less than 150 GB (very loose estimate), as such the game would require other checks and balances as well. Whether it ever happens or not does not matter, the entire part is important in another way. When we consider the images I gave where the play world grows with the added segments, that approach would work very well for Google Stadia, so it opens up a new area we have almost never seen before, true open source gaming, a collective of gamers that could add to the game (with permission from the maker) not unlike some kind of a creation club, but in the foundation (the small balls), as a new enhancement is accepted by the game owner, we see that the entire gaming map and experience would grow as well, so over time, we get a largely enhanced game. Consider the merging of Elite Dangerous and No Man’s Sky, so not only do you play Elite Dangerous and travel from planet to planet, each planet could end up having an algorithm that allows to planetary exploration on every planet for the size of the planet, it would make it a game that takes a lifetime to play even in part. Yet what happens when someone created the module to add your own space station in an unexplored location? Consider the option for the gamer to have their own small station, grow it so that the station itself becomes an economic mark on the game as a larger whole. The nice part is that Google Stadia is in a much better position to bring that reality in gaming in the short term, so as the elements of IP are created and offered, we see the optional short term reality that Google Stadia could take sandbox gaming to an entirely new level and that would create the interest of millions of casual and recreational gamers overnight. That is not all, the stated lack of latency and the larger balance (implied) between latency and quality (much higher quality with less latency) only rises the level of opportunity for the Google players in the immediate future. I am not certain how active Google will be at the next E3, yet I believe that every eye will be on what Google can deliver, at that point the game changes for players on a global scale, so when I stated “we do hope that Sony is not stupid enough to follow the short-sighted path that Microsoft is on, they are now merely console number three and optionally before 2021 number 4 out of 5“, in ‘Lifting the Veil‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2019/04/17/lifting-the-veil/) I did know what I was talking about and I knew what could optionally happen. Microsoft forgot what the power of true dreamers was (and optionally clueless on what they can still do), that is why Google could be the number 3 choice for a global gaming community soon thereafter, how far they rise depends on how innovative they continue to be, they are up against two titans that actively shaped the world of gaming for well over 5 console generations. So when these new technologies come, we will see a much more driven need for these players to be the best innovator in gaming, at that point it does not matter who leads, the gamer wins and that is just fine by me.

 

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Lifting the veil

Keith Stuart (the Guardian) gave the first reliable light less than 8 hours ago when he treats us to: ‘PlayStation 5: Sony gives the first details of its next generation console‘. We see a lot of digital techno babble (for the non-technical readers), what is important in first light is a positive and a negative. The positive is seen with “a custom graphics processor based on the forthcoming AMD Navi family, which will be capable of real-time ray tracing“, implying that the new PS5 is only inches behind today’s top graphics cards and on part what the PC could maximise in 2020, that is indeed a graphical leap that has not been seen before. Then we see “an eight-core CPU based on the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen processors“. This is good in a number of ways but let’s not blindly focus on the 8 cores. In the end gaming is about good games. What does seem to be implied is that Ubisoft has a unique option at present, it could get ahead of the crowd with a massive leap if they do their homework and if they focus on the result and not listen to whatever idiot is the voice of the shareholders and/or marketing, because that will end them right quick.

They have the option for a truly new Watchdog and optionally a few more of their franchises, but only if they focus, the next AAA rated at 65% could end them if they lose focus; the fans have become weary of Ubisoft and what they market and subsequently not produce. A similar stage is there for Bethesda, even as they have a lot more credibility. They have the products, but they need to have a much better QA team. They will not survive a second Fallout 76 that much is showing to be the gospel of gaming. When we see the specs of the PS5 we cannot even imagine what FromSoftware will be able to pull off, but we cannot wait to see. There are more players, especially with the implied God of War 5, even if they merely get an equal to god of War 4, people will sleep in front of gaming shops to get the game at first light, and so far we know that these makers always surpassed the previous versions, so we cannot wait.

Yet this gets us to the other place, the one negative one. You see, we might hype behind “a solid state drive“, yet the ugly truth is that space is expensive in solid state mode. Even as the current price of $975 for a 4TB drive is a lot and that price will be 30% down in 2020, the truth remains that 2TB will not cut it and we do hope that Sony is not stupid enough to follow the short-sighted path that Microsoft is on, they are now merely console number three and optionally before 2021 a number 4 out of 5. We get that we might start at 1-2TB, yet as long as the space is there to upgrade to 4TB the fans will be OK with it, selling that item short is the most dangerous path one could be on and 3mm makes all the difference. Even as Microsoft Marketing is trying to launch hypes around Xbox Two, they have already lost the faith of so many gamers that the stage now is set to them trying to repair damage in the first year of console release; this is totally difference form both Nintendo and Sony who are now steaming ahead at full throttle. Even as we get the Sci-Fi versions of what the Xbox Two might be, too many people are no longer willing to trust Microsoft at present and that is hurting them at the starting bell for a lot more than they are willing to admit to. I only they had actually listened to the gamers, we are not willing to trust them with their words: ‘We listened to gamer and this is what we came up with‘, they will bully always online, they will bully their Microsoft Azure needs. This is the consequence of doing what shareholders tell you and disregard the customer, it is a failed model and I have seen the fallout of that for well over two decades in the field.

So whilst others need to worry about the market share they lose against Nintendo and Google Stadia (optionally against Apple too), Sony has decided on the path that gamers desire and with one optional flaw they are on track to surpass themselves. It gets to be even larger if initial social media plans come to fruition, yet there is no evidence that this is in any way happening. what is interesting is that the winning path of Sony is pushed to a much higher level whilst Microsoft is still clinging to “Securely store player data, dynamically scale your gaming experiences to more than 50 regions, and save money as your game grows with Azure” and even as some give us: “Google may have stolen the show at this year’s Game Developer Conference with its Stadia cloud gaming reveal, but Microsoft is hard at work on its own service, xCloud, that it’s already testing now. At a GDC developer session yesterday, Microsoft representatives from the xCloud team gave us a little more detail into how games designed for Xbox consoles will translate over to mobile devices, where players might be used to either a Bluetooth controller or on-screen touch controls“, some need to see a reality, not only are they outgunned against Google (Stadia), the fact that the fact that I do not accept any Xbox game to be played on a mere 6” mobile, we now see that the entire concept of ‘gaming’ is seemingly slightly alien to Microsoft. This is all about stored player data; this is about data and facilitating for the capture of it.

Do you really think that I could ever enjoy Forza Horizons IV on a 6″ screen? That game is the reason why people buy a 75″ 4K TV in the first place. So not only is Microsoft failing its gamers, their own marketing department is failing both. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of games that play nicely on a Mobile, some games can be played at any place and screen (Fallout Shelter, Gems of War), but the premise to make it all go to a mobile display is almost insulting to the people who went all out and created Forza Horizons IV for the big 4K screens.

This matters!

This matters as it shows the people that both Sony and Nintendo have been on the right track all along, the Nintendo sales figures show that, the head start of Sony shows it and now the top two will vie for their audience and even as Sony is ahead, it cannot relax one moment, Nintendo is too good at what they do and it is what the gamers want, Sony knows that too.

for now we see the PS5 for what it is, an optional beauty to replace our PS4 with, the fact that it is still a year away (optionally 17 months) is not something we are sorry about. The PS4 gives loads of entertainment to all its users and is highly likely to do so until the PS4 hands over the baton to the PS5, that is how it works and even then the PS4 will keep gamers happy for the longest of times, just like the Nintendo GameCube did whilst people were buying the Nintendo Wii in force. For that too is gaming, it is like our favourite pair of shoes or wallet, we hang onto it a little longer than we should, we grew attached to the device that brought so much joy, something Nintendo accepted and Sony forgot just a little too easy.

 

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The next gamer plus

We can speculate in all direction, but I believe that the next big thing is Transference. It will be on several fields and when it comes to gaming, it is perhaps the clearest field of all. Many players want to take their game with them, many players want a larger exposure to the games that they care about. Especially in RPG gaming.

Bethesda

Bethesda might be the clearest example of all, they decided to do something nice and gave away a free game called Fallout Shelter. Now consider that you could export a maximum of three vaults to Fallout 4, as soon as a minimum degree is reached, you could do a one-time export of that vault. This now becomes a much more revealing part of a game you just spend 30-70 hours of gaming on, but in addition to that, depending on the level of the rooms, that vault is exported to a 3D version where you can walk around. Now, we can understand that the connection might require a purchasable DLC (which is fine by me, but consider that you get three new vaults (three new personal spaces) in the commonwealth, who would not want that?

The upcoming Elder Scrolls: Blades, might offer a similar path when the new Elder Scrolls 6 is released. All that time, all the effort and you get to transport a set of weapons and armour to the big game, how awesome would that be?

It would optionally add to the gaming experience and fun. For example (going back to Fallout shelter), level 1 rooms will be 25-50% operational, level 2 51%-75% and level 3 rooms 76%-90%, so you might have to clean out that vault, make repairs and set the stage to make it operational. That could be an easy 10 hours per vault more.

The concept of transference is not new, yet the interactions of mobile and console gaming will grow, 5G is making it happen, dedication to a franchise makes it essential and the fact that any good mobile game would optionally being in a DLC (or via season pass) gives more and more value to the franchise we enjoy.

Ubisoft

Ubisoft dropped the ball initially around the Unity release, yet what bummed me out was that the mobile game looked spiffy and appealing, it looked like a real winner. The fact that this fell through in a disastrous way was quite the shame, even as the previous Facebook attempt with Brotherhood was actually really good.

There are games that could have added so much. Titles like Horizon Zero Dawn, The Division would have added more depth and more joy to the game. Now, this is not a solution or option to all games, yet for the most, the RPG games could benefit greatly. This push is more and more to likely to happen, especially as Google and Apple are entering the gaming arena. Also unknown games like Watchdogs 3 would prosper in bigger ways. There will of course be the interactive person who will complain that it could have been added as a mini game. This is of course a fair call and there is nothing stopping the makers to add these games on both sides, yet we should consider the smoothness of adding transference to games, especially when the games are online games.

It can go in several directions, consider a game like System shock that is being relaunched within the next year. What could you get when the mobile part is about hacking into consoles on the mobile giving you optional rewards that you can pick up when you log back into the game? Another example could be World War Z, a game that has no mobile game, but a mobile tag with the option that passing people could blindly exchange weapons, more so, the receiver will always get a +1 version of the game transmitted to them, that too is the power of an app; weapons and armour of equal levels are exchanged and they get a +1 version of the given item, it will push interaction close to tenfold overnight.

All options to keep the gamers interested, most of it free and in some cases a real dealmaker to upgrade to that DLC, or merely buy it on the spot. The more I think on it, the more sense it makes. It will also be interesting for Nintendo to make that jump. They had done so to some extent, yet the swapping of your Pokémon collection (from any Pokemon game) via the mobile? And the versatility of that approach just keeps on growing, so as we consider all the cursing we have seen over the last weeks regarding Anthem, was there no one at EA that gave the entire stage a much larger setting giving players all kind of options on the go.

The nice part on all this is that it does not merely give reason for interaction with others. The option will also give more gamers the consideration to buy that game, which is a win-win for maker and gamer. I believe that we will see a growth of this in 2020-2021, even as most are now already considering this to some extent (or optionally considering not doing that) there is the most likely stage that the makers want to offer 5G gaming as fast as possible and adding new options will draw gamers in.

It is becoming a numbers game and those with social media and online links will merely offer more for the same amount which is always a good idea to get the success rate of a game up in the beginning, on launch day traction for a title is everything and I predict that not unlike Fable 2 with ‘Pub Games‘ on early release is a path that will find a renewed interest for all the people gaming involved, especially as it could help create visibility and awareness for the game maker, as well as a much larger exposure. So I do hope that anticipated games like Fable 4 will consider renewing that path.

It is also a consideration on the amount that Mass Effect Andromeda missed, when we consider the options that the Mass Effect 3 data pad gave us, moreover, the additional opportunities (with no more than 4G) could have given the makers of that game a lot more to their gamers, I had forgotten about the app initially and of the 72 missed opportunities (OK, that was an exaggeration, I only saw 67 opportunities), we see a sad part on what was, yet we can rejoice on what the next several years bring, especially as 5G and tag technology will raise the bar for everyone, not merely in gaming.

The next gaming generation could be one where we get the partial unification of single players in a multiplayer environment, the one part that every single player has been looking forward to for well over 6 years at present.

So when you see these ‘hot air’ articles on the fourth industrial revolution, consider what RFID, beacons, sensors, and drones could also facilitate for. Pokémon go opened the door, yet in the next 2 years we could see a whole range of new applications of technology that could spell more interactions and additional awareness on a global scale. For close to 95% of the people, their most important device is their mobile, for consoles and games to properly connect to that device adding options for gameplay and awareness makes perfect sense.

 

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The TV as a weapon

There is an old saying and there are alternatives to it. In Australia we say:

Q: Do you know the difference between ABC and Channel 7?
A: ABC shows you how bad things are in the world, Channel 7 shows you how screwed up your TV life is.

In the Netherlands it used to be NOS versus SBS6, and every nation has its own version. So what happens, when we see the millions of smart TV’s and Apple enters the race opposing Netflix? The New Daily gives the quote: “Spielberg who appeared live, touted the revival of his Amazing Stories anthology, while Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carrell then took the stage to discuss another Apple original, The Morning Show” with the added: “a range of new streaming entertainment services, as well as financial products, at a star-studded event Tuesday morning“. the message was apparently clearly brought and when we get to see: “Apple is expected to spend US$2 billion this year on original content to challenge established steaming players Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and the forthcoming Disney+ service“, we need to realise that Apple has an optional goldmine in the making. In addition we see: “Hot on the heels of the Google game streaming service, Stadia, Apple launched Apple Arcade in a bid to grab a slice of the multi-billion dollar gaming market“, which will be fun to watch as Apple has shown a keen interest in negating the need of gamers (which is not all their fault in all honesty), will they figure it out this time? At least with the established Android gaming platform size, Google does have a huge advantage for now. OK, apple does have a gaming community on IOS and I was not short selling that (yes, I was). Yet the overall view I have seen in the past gives a better light of gaming to gamers on the android, than the Apple (a mere personal view on the matter).

So here we are watching two streams being created. First is the Netflix drain by Apple and as soon as they realise that 2 billion is a mere stack of money, to get the TV series that get the people to sign up, even besides Netflix will requires series that surpass The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Haunting of Hill House, Bird Box and a few other gems, Netflix has the writers, will Apple have them? We all know that Game of Thrones will enter their final season, so there are plenty of needy watchers to pick up after that conclusion, yet if Apple does not have the IP, they are not going anywhere. Even with the added Spielberg Amazing Stories anthology, which was actually quite decent when it was initially released on VHS, they will still have quite the task at hand. More important, even if they have all the ducks in a row, they will still having to deal with the market shares of Hulu, Stan, Amazon and the forthcoming Disney + service as well (and a few local others). Do they have the IP when that goes online? I can see half a dozen series that could be hits, and I am not the only one. Plenty of dedicated story tellers will have a list. Yet, does the Apple executive (whomever Tim Cook handed this hot potato to), does that person have a clue? The difference between a good presentation and an actual good idea comes with a gap that can fit the Grand Canyon and many Apple executives are a little lost when they face that gap.

It goes further, having a great idea is not enough and most visionaries have that in mind. to see that part we need to reflect on: “Apple, which became the world’s first trillion-dollar company in August last year, had been dropping cryptic hints about the launch event for weeks, sending the internet rumour-mill into overdrive“, yet since then Apple lost well over 20% of its value and the next few ‘slam bam’ misers will dent that even further. The next part is interesting as it impacts gaming and TV.

To get a great product you need at the very least (before marketing gets to have a go):

  1. A script, a story that will compel the reader to go on. Loading it with sex and graphics will only hold a small percentage for some time. A great example of a near perfect script was I Claudius by Robert Graves.
  2. A cast that works well together, each good actors, but together they become ambrosia, wine and nitro-glycerine, all at the same time. Again I Claudius became the golden standard. With Derek Jacobi, George Baker, Siân Phillips, Brian Blessed, James Faulkner, John Hurt, Patrick Steward, Ian Ogilvy, John Castle, and John Rhys-Davies we got something unheard of. They were already good actors, yet together they created greatness, they are now globally celebrities, but in 1976 that was not a given, they were iron rods and the director shaped them into high tempered steel increasing their mark close to tenfold.
  3. The director. Not merely the man implying 3, 2, 1, action! No, he is the person that becomes the visual visionary and Herbert Wise delivered. The evidence is seen in his work. As a director he has 91 marks on his career rod and when we look at it all, it is all decent work, insightful work, yet I Claudius is a 180 cm person walking in Indonesia (where the average height is 152cm), it stood out tall above all others. So, even as we accept that I Claudius could not have been done without the cast, it equally required the right director to make it work.
  4. The Producer (in this case the BBC), who had to put up the dough with a need of blind faith and no idea how much they were going to lose. These four required to be completely in sync and they were as such I Claudius is still seen as the best BBC drama ever produced, even now, 43 years later we see that new TV series merely hope to equal this achievement, thinking that it can be surpassed is mere folly (yet optionally not impossible).

This is the setting that Apple is trying to get into and throwing 2 billion at it thinking that it will be easy by presenting a few famous people is as reliable as getting rich by spending what you have on blow and hookers. It looks pretty, yet it is an absolute non-winner 100% of the time. Finding the right people will be the task for Apple and as they are all competing for the same pig through increasing the value of good scriptwriters, yet they too are starting to look critical at the offers, because they lose value with every failure and often enough, they do not get to blame the director of the production company, they get to be the scapegoat. So they will require their optional bosses to set an income and levels of freedom and commitment to a much higher degree.

As for gaming

Gaming has a similar setting. It will be about getting the gamers on board and that requires a great product, in an age where Apple has been all about marketed iteration, they are vying for innovation? In a market they do not seem to really comprehend? I am slightly puzzled.

There the director is the project director; the cast are the graphic designers and the scripters and coders. The art and stage might have similar issues, but finding these parts to intertwine and interconnect is where good coders are required. Then there is the learning curve of the game. And it gets to be worse fast when it becomes a product relying on micro transactions. Ubisoft, Bethesda too never quite worked it out and the first screw up will diminish the value of the event overnight. Apple will have to steer clear of micro transactions in the first year by a certainty of 100% and in the subsequent 2-3 years for 90%. Can they afford that game? Their essential path will be the RPG games that call the horn of attendance for gamers on a global scale, if not, than this becomes a long term project that will not end up becoming a winner. In that they have additional competition form makers like Nintendo, their Switch is still gaining momentum and the games I have seen lined up for that system shows that Nintendo is taking this momentum extremely serious. I wonder if Apple has thought this through beyond their return on investment expectations from executives who rely in spreadsheets and lack essential data skills other than identifying their ROI and bonus column. Once that goes south Apple will take a few hits in short succession and they will be painful. If it goes wrong (I am not stating or indication that this is the case), they could face the hits where their total value is a mere 50% of what it was on September 16th 2018.

Yes, Apple could rise high with streaming on TV and consoles, but in the end they require the golden eggs to get there and I am not convinced that they have what it takes to get there. For the most it is an art, I have been involved in gaming since 1984 and I still miss elements in all it. It is both science and an art, the moment you separate the two is the moment you lose. That has been an essential given for close to two decades. Ubisoft got it wrong more than once, Bethesda took massive hits with miscalculations and they are dedicated experts in that field, I doubt Apple has seen that shortfall at present.

To illustrate that we need to look at a game called the Division 2, an Ubisoft product. Important fact, it is seen as a really good game, better than the first version and steps forward, at times leaps forward, some reviewers have stated that is sets a new bar of online gaming and that is awesome to learn. Now add the two headlines: ‘Ubisoft Patches Annoying ‘The Division 2’ Skills Bug‘, as well as ‘The Division 2 PC players report a 100% CPU usage issue, Ubisoft is investigating‘, on games this size this will always happen and the fact that it is looked at and fixed this early is really good, so this is not about pulling Division 2 down. This is what happens on games this big depending on online elements, which is besides server down times. A consequence of online gaming and in this Apple is as I expect it not ready to see gaming to the higher levels it needs to see it.

If they see these two elements as a method to use the TV as a weapon, a data weapon for additional wealth, we see a company that is about to get hit really hard. That is in the foundation of it all. I believe that they are making the same mistake that Microsoft made. Microsoft is talking a good talk, yet the people all over the world are seeing the impact, the most powerful console in the world is being surpassed by the weakest of the three. Their setting of always online, their bullying tactics, their essential inability to listen to gamers (or ignoring what they are being told) is what is dragging down Microsoft and Apple will experience that lesson in a very hard way soon enough if they walk that same silly line.

Just like Microsoft, we see a company that more likely than not does not comprehend gamers and will falter because of corporate ROI needs soon enough. They see the two as connected to grow better, but these are two separate entities (TV and Gaming) representing 6 dimensions that can go in any direction, when these executives learn that lesson the hard way and they are looking what to do next, I will offer Tim Cook my last $99 for the company (Apple, a fruit of the loom division).

Could I be massively wrong?

Absolutely, yet the Apple marketing need of the hype and their viral needs seem to be on my side, as the gaming industry as a whole tends to be as gossipy as any old tea lady, so word would have circulated into my inner core of contacts much earlier, as such I think that Apple is not ready, nowhere near ready, personally I do hope to be proven wrong. I would love to see more contenders in the gaming world, more choice, more innovation and better games is the consequence from that war, and I do love playing good games.

I will keep you all posted on what happens next.

 

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Game of failures

This is for those who love games. Games are important, it has always been important even as plenty of people do not realise it. Getting your kids into gaming at an early age is increasingly important. Our lives revolve around interfaces; interactivity of systems, so lowering that threshold to children as soon as possible is important, very important. Those parents who think that they will get it school are out of their minds. To get any child to be aware of how a tablet is used, to how a mouse is used and a controller is close to everything. Yet this path only works when the software is up to scrap and whilst this was easily the case for Putt-Putt, the games nowadays that go beyond merely being an educational support idea is far from perfect, in some cases they are disastrous.

Some kids get to tap their parent’s smartphone and that is fine. This is not a new issue; it goes back to the early 90’s where Humongous Entertainment created amongst others, the Putt-Putt series, an interactive game that worked like a picture book story and as the player learned to click on the environment, it started to be more and more interactive. I thought it was the greatest idea in 1992 when I tested the game. I already saw at that point that lowering the threshold for the next generation was going to be a big thing and this game delivered. Even as that side did not survive, it had set a seed in motion and created learnware, a way for people to get engaged into the use of computers at an early age, an age that went beyond the Atari 800 and Atari ST. It was a game available on PC and allowed people to fear the mouse less and become inquisitive in a natural way. I got the game via Electronic Arts in the UK if I remember correctly. It hit me how wrong the company has gone. Well, that is not entirely fair, the larger missed stages are not by Electronic Arts, yet their link to Bioware taints them the same way, no matter how removed they are from the equation. As Forbes states: ‘Five Extremely Basic Things ‘Anthem’ Gets Wrong And Needs To Fix‘, not merely an elemental flaw, a much larger massive flaw from beginning to wherever the player ends. Forbes gives us “even if BioWare manages to patch all the technical issues out of the game, what ails Anthem goes deeper, and fixes will require some pretty core reworks of entire systems that are currently in the game“, this is what you get when marketing decides on the products and proper game testing is either ignored or never properly done. I particularly liked the introduction by Paul Tassi: “While I am Mr. Anthem-Is-Not-That Bad-Actually, trying to push back against a flood of negative reviews to let at least some people know that they may enjoy the game if they’re a fan of the genre, I am also not blind to a number of very, very obvious problems with Anthem“. For me it goes back to a more basic part. Bioware has been sitting on IP worth close to a half a billion dollars and squandered it to the largest degree. Even if there is a repair to the Mass Effect universe, if they are not ready to dish out $50-$100 million and take a very new direction, ne not seen before in gaming, they will be in hot water getting boiled alive. It is not merely the ‘hope’ on Anthem getting repaired; you cannot hold the audience with E3 presentations for almost 2 years and make colossal mistakes to this degree. Bethesda is similarly not in a good place, yet they have been changing direction 180 degrees trying to get fixed in their first massive failure (Fallout 76 for those in the dark). In case of Bethesda, it is their first tits up event, so they have time to get it fixed and they got the rudest wake up call. For Bioware it is not the first time, with the Andromeda failure, they have a lot less to go with and that whilst Anthem was supposed to be trying to budge in on the Fortnite hype (and similar games), as such we can come to the conclusion that Anthem is in much deeper waters, and there is no safe swimming there.

Forbes gives us a lot more, with ‘Viewing and Equipping Loot Is Absurd‘ is the indication that no proper game testing was done, or if it was done, it was not scrutinised towards the minimum levels it needed to be, the essential 6 steps that were discussed (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2019/02/24/five-extremely-basic-things-anthem-gets-wrong-and-needs-to-fix/#3f7327ce63a5) shows just how wrong it was implemented and handled. This makes for a clearly shown wrongly tested game. And when we get back to Mass Effect 3 and their loot boxes, we know that it could be done better and there was a much better example at hand. Forbes goes one better and shows the Ubisoft method (the Division) a two year old game where loot deployment is well done and take 8 seconds against the 12 minutes loss you face now (as was stated by the reviewer), how could you ever achieve in captivating and maintaining a proper audience?

With the comment: “there is no way to see your overall stats anywhere. Not basic stuff like health and shield, which are added up between components with no total shown” I am on the fence. In a real shooter (Bagdad 2003, Beirut 1983, Kandahar 2011, or Aleppo 2015) you are alive, wounded or dead (preferably not dead). When you get shot you do not get to check your health or shield status. The Kevlar either held and you felt like a mule kicked you hard, or there is red all over the place. Yet, this is a game and a choice was made not to give it. I am not sure whether the gamer accepts this, but it was a choice made and we have to accept it. We all have come a long way from the Wolfenstein 3D health indicator. Paul gives us a lot more, from the free play, to crafting to the revive issues. The game is seemingly flawed in too many ways, in a day and age where getting it right from the beginning is almost everything, when we consider that the first teaser was in June 2017 and we see these levels of shortcomings, we need to realise that the larger players have lost the plot somehow. Is it management, project management or merely marketing that cannot get the time lines straight? No matter what the reason is, between the need to grow knowledge in a global gaming dimension as well as the revenue driven side of gaming, it goes beyond what we know now, it is all about how to evolve a system that is as mature as it gets. Perhaps the curse for Bioware is that Mass Effect three was close to perfect. You don’t get to mess with perfection ever; they learned that the hard way twice already. And as we see an exploding amount of videos on YouTube on loot grinding and chest locations after a mere weekend of availability, we see that there is a lot more to fix on this game, from my point of view, a game that is still such an alpha should not have been released, not ever.

In the past I have had good cause and plenty of reasons to have a go at Ubisoft, yet in comparison there are plenty of indicators that they are getting it right. The Division 2 is a much better version that the original, it is not really a new brand or a new game; it is a much better game. Even as it is too early to tell, there are some voices (who had early access) and they are comparing the division 2 after the first game to the Assassins Creed 2 compared to that first game. If that is true, if that holds up than those who embraced the division are in for one hell of a ride, crushing Bioware further still. In a world where we are driven to choice as our budgets limits us, the problems that Anthem created for themselves is one that they might not survive, to get this much opposition to a game three days after release is a really bad thing, those who bought the game might run back return the console games (not an option for PC games) and put that money towards the Division 2 and wait three weeks to start a proper multi player shooter.

When it comes to this generation gamers, we are faced with a failing generation as they are confronted with decision makers who clearly have not had the best track record in game design, that is proven with the mere sight of so much failure on any day one edition.

If I had to make a judgement, my personal response would be a simple one: ‘Looks like this could be a nice game, call me again if you ever get to a workable beta version‘, a game that is optionally a year too early, unfinished and unbalanced in a world where there are half a dozen better made alternatives. Bioware strikes out a second time, will they be around to make that mistake again next time?

My version is upheld and given strength when we see the ‘Anthem Day One Update Patch Notes‘ (source Gamespot) which is massive and filled with issues that should not have been allowed to be around past an alpha version. It gets to be worse for the console owners. The information in the open is that the day one patch too that is around 7GB on consoles. So you buy the game and still you need to patch 7GB from the start, I expect at least half a dozen more patches in the near future and if they are core patches, the download size is likely to be higher. Forbes gives us more than mere patch information in the several articles that Paul Tassi wrote. Last week he gave us: “In addition to the sizable day one patch, BioWare has moved swiftly to hotfix two other issues right now. The first being killing a chest exploit that was allowing players to easily farm endgame gear“, it is merely proof (as I personally see it) that this game is still pre beta stage giving us a lot more issues to ask questions on and for the most, I do not see that such a critical look is being taken by many reviewers. I have had no issue going for the throat of Yves Guillemot (apparently still CEO of Ubisoft) in regards to the AC blunders; do you think I was going to pull my punches on Bioware after the Mess Effect Andromeda bungled to that degree? Bioware needs to sit down and take a hard look at where they are at and what they think they can do next, because squandering IP to the degree that they are doing is not a good sign and it will affect EA just as badly, because that is the impact of a game with this many issue relying on micro transactions. Their best action at present is to hand out the $39.99 pack for free to all those who registered in the first 7 days, and I would double the amount of shards given in that pack, because when we start seeing the dozens of copies of the console editions of Anthem in the preowned game section that will be the first sign that Anthem will become a dead product, death in 60 days, it could be the worst result a multi-player shooter has ever faced, and it is not all on them, in this case the increasingly higher regarded and higher review scores of Division 2 will be part of that death stroke.

Anthem for a failing gaming experience‘, it is quite the epitaph to put on the tombstone of any game.

 

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