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That one place

There is a place where everyone is the same, where it does not matter what your convictions are, what your gender is or how you swing your love life. That is the one thing I always believed, I remain faithful to the notion that games and gaming is the one place where it does not matter what you are, who you are and how you are, as long as you are fine that is. I grew up with games, I reviewed and tested games for well over a decade and played them for additional decades beyond that. I was already a gamer when the term did not even exist.

I always believed that games had, in those days two distinct powers. One was to entertain the person playing; the other was to lower the threshold of using computers, I ended up being correct on both counts. I started my gaming life in 1982, almost 36 years ago. I started with a Commodore VIC-20, after that a Commodore 64 and after that I was off to the races. So, the VIC-20, CBM-64, Atari 2600, CD-32, Atari ST, Amiga 500, PC, MAC, Nintendo-64, Sega Megadrive, Sega Dreamcast, PlayStation 1, 2, 3, and 4, Xbox, Xbox360 and Xbox One. I had them all and played them all. I saw games evolve from blocks; I played Pong and many arcade games. I always hoped that the women would not keep on considering it ‘an act too nerdy’ and behold, in the beginning of the second millennia I saw more and more women taking up gaming to some extent. I always thought that gaming was a true equaliser and to some extent it became one, so I was a little upset to see ‘eSports analyst receives death threats after thanking men on women’s day‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/mar/09/soembie-soe-gschwind-penski-overwatch-league), there she is on the article smiling and announcing the Blizzard event, looking like an overwatch player. Soe Gschwind-Penski was not the pesky Peski adversarial player that was up against people, she was hosting the event as the excellent eSports commentator she is regarded to be. So, the lady born in the land of Cheese and Chocolate gave the tweet: “It’s #InternationalWomensDay I’d like to give a special shoutout to all the men in our lives who have supported us, gave us a voice when we had none, fought for our cause and treated us the way we all ought to treat each other…like a fellow human being – no race, no gender.” as @Soembie she gave us all a nice tweet, all positive in every direction giving a voice to an international day. So for the utter life of me, I cannot comprehend the fact that people hand out responses that lead to: ““Ive gotten death threats and hundreds of hate messages the past 20 minutes because I thanked men for treating me as their equal, on a day which is all about womens struggle for equality,” Gschwind-Penski posted. “Hate, because I am grateful for the men in our lives who fight alongside us for our rights.”“, from my point of view that could not have been done by anyone who is an actual real gamer. I see it as actions from people pretending to be ‘gamers’; pretending to know anything at all. Like those people claiming that they finished ‘Dead Space in Impossible mode in two hours‘, or something as ridiculous like that. They tend to use cheats and god mode codes or alterations so that they can run through a game not getting hurt by anything, they are not and never will be players. I never had any regard or respect for them. So am I a great gamer? Nope! I am a good gamer and I like to enjoy games, so I will never run through an RPG. What is the purpose of running through Skyrim, or Fallout 4 and missing on the magnificent views the game offers? I even admire the fact that Fallout 4 can be played as a pacifist. I never did that, but the fact that it is there is just awesome, it makes for a gamer to be an actual gamer (cause for a golden Achievement; Hint, hint). I am not one for multiple shooting games. I used to like it, but Unreal Tournament spoiled that for me. All people hopping like kangaroos through the game, it was just too weird for me. Still, there is plenty of awesomeness in going down the throat of Diablo 3 with three other players. A game I loved since the very first Diablo and my team of 7 hardcore mode level 70 characters are decent evidence of that.

So in that setting the entire abuse of Soe Gschwind-Penski makes no sense at all. Even when we see: “The two-year-old OWL did make headlines last month when South Korean teenager Kim Se-yeon signed with the Shanghai Dragons to become the league’s first female player. But high-profile eSports competitions remain a male-dominated space: Gschwind-Penski is the only female member of OWL’s full-time commentary team.

You see, for the most finding female gamers, serious gamers are still a rare thing. So even as there might be a case in regards to the fact that ‘Gschwind-Penski is the only female member of OWL’s full-time commentary team‘, we must equally realise that for the longest time, even today that a high estimate from my speculative view is that the women in gaming are set to a mere 10% at best (I apologise if I am wrong). So we are happy that people like Soe Gschwind-Penski, Aoife Wilson (@AoifeLockhart) from Eurogamer, Stephanie Claire Bendixsen (aka Hex), and Anita Sarkeesian. The list is way too short and we can point fingers at the reasons, but in the end I am not certain if there is an actual real culprit. If there is one than I might blame the makers of these review sites and channels as the culprit for not hiring more women, or is that actually the non-capability of finding more women?

You see, I started gaming in the age when nearly all women remained in enthusiastic denial of games for well over a decade. I know that because in those days woman in gaming was extremely rare. Roberta Williams was one of the very few. Jane Jensen would not appear until a decade later and the writing she did on EcoQuest and Police Quest 3 put her on the map (both excellent games). Yet the last two were two of a very small group of game designers, not game critics or reviewers (or hosts). Yet, I still believe that women are as welcome in the gaming industry and the gaming world as much as anyone else. Anyone who does not agree with that view is of course allowed to disagree, but he is not an actual gamer plain and simple!

You see, it truly does not matter what you are or who you are in gaming. It is merely the setting that you can hold your own in that virtual team, once you do you are in it for life! There are several women that I have met who can hold their own in Mass Effect 3 multiplayer on platinum level. That is all it requires and even as the settings change per game, they are all about being able to hold your own and strengthen the multiplayer (MP) team. So in all this I have absolutely no clue why anyone would give death threats to any female gamer and I feel certain that this was not dome by any real gamer, at best a wannabe, and optionally merely a game hater and we have no real use for each of these two groups.

It is my view that it needs to be dealt with. It is in that regard that I remember an article (and found it) which was from 2014. The Guardian gave us (at https://www.theguardian.com/culture/australia-culture-blog/2014/nov/28/alanah-pearce-tells-on-her-internet-trolls-to-their-mothers) , so when we read the tweet “Sometimes young boys on Facebook send me rape threats, so I’ve started telling their mothers“, most actual gamers would be laughing out loud and when we read the results “more than 11,000 users had retweeted her comment, and more than 20,000 had favourited it, eight hours after Pearce made her original post” game reviewer Alanah Pearce struck gold! Actually, in my view it does not really matter how young or old the person is, when it comes to the threats that Soe Gschwind-Penski was exposed to, it should be standard practise to tell on them to their mommy’s. For them to be exposed as the utter disappointment they show themselves to be to others might not be a bad thing. The wannabe’s will stop pretending to be gamers and hide in a corner, the rest will get a quick moral adjustment they desperately needed.

In my view gaming is for all and everyone. It does not matter what your gender, religion orientation or conviction is. The world of gaming is about the gaming world you enter, whether that is in the depths of a cathedral in Diablo, the house in Overwatch, the landing site on Mass Effect 3, or the power chamber in Unreal Tournament. You only have to hold your own. If you cannot do that, choose a lower level and get there, or get better. It is the one part that every player can do and that is why gaming will remain a world of inclusion, it is the only place where your inclusion only relies on you doing your part which is awesome in nearly everyone’s view. And the nicest part is that if you are not ready today, you can practice, get better and return, gender was never an issue.

Yet, there is still a long way to go, not because of gamers or gender, the fact that the President of the United States is still a few cans short of a six pack and that evidence is shown in light of “Donald Trump will host executives from the video game industry at the White House on Thursday, resurrecting a debate over the link between violent video games and gun-related deaths in the aftermath of the Parkland high school shooting“, so how long until women (and some men) will turn away from Overwatch out of fear for being seen as an aspiring psychopath?

Do you think I am kidding?

The foundation of all this is values and inherent choices. The choice an abuser makes is seen in two settings. Psychology Today gives us the 5 types of abuse:

– Emotional (killing pet, playing mind games)
– Verbal (calling names)
– Technological (GPS system /Face book sabotage)
– Sexual (forcing sex while sleep or based on the bible)
– Physical (killing, punching, choking)

The issue is seen in the first two, emotional, and then verbal after that we get the physical one. Yet in gaming this is all in a virtual setting and the gamer knows this. So they know that the person they fight with is a virtual person, and in games like Half-Life counter-strike we know that the opposing person is a virtual one too. The issue is that every psychopath might be a gamer to some extent, but that person will not be able to tell the virtual world and the real world apart. They merely want to hurt people, to actually abuse them, a gamer never does. It was that same article that gave me something that I did not know. Did you know that an actual abuser ‘Holds very rigid gender roles‘? So basically these threatening people might be actual abusers and reporting them becomes a duty for every gamer, not merely every women threatened. This person, usually a male regards himself as ‘King of the Castle’, it is her duty to cater (and service) him. As I am not like that, I had no idea, but that becomes a worry and Trump is not making it easier. If anything he is currently catering to abusers and psychopaths. This could be a comforting notion if the entire issue was not that worrying, but it actually is.

Then we get the worrying part, worrying because it is a dangerous step. As we see ‘Treatment for this population‘, we get to see “Group Therapy is important because it allows the batterer to be confronted by his peers on his behavior. I’ve facilitated groups with 16 men in the room at times it would become very confrontational but it was important for the men to be held accountable for their behavior by other men and group facilitators so this might translate into “making them a group of inclusion, allow and accept them in our midst and calling them openly out on every transgression they make“. I for one am happy to shun abusers and never letting them in our midst, but I recognise that I would make matters worse, in my defence, I feel more compelled to protect my fellow gamer, whether he is a man or a woman, because quality gamers are rare and I feel that their protection is more important than curing a non-gamer in the gaming world. This is merely my personal view.

In the end I would call to my fellow gamers to call out those who attack gamers like Soe Gschwind-Penski because our population of true gamers is not that large when we compare 2-3 million on a total of 8 billion. I would love for that number to double the next few years, so as we grow we will hopefully see more women join our ranks.

In opposition

There is however a part I need to mention. I never agreed with it, but it is a view we must not ignore. In 2013 (at https://www.newstatesman.com/if-you-love-games-you-are-not-a-gamer), in the New Statesman there was a piece. In its origin the New Statesman is a British political and cultural magazine published in London. Founded as a weekly review of politics and literature on 12 April 1913, so a magazine from before WW1, gave us “The idea of the ‘gaming community’ needs to die“, it is one view. You see, as gamers we segregate ourselves, I am happy to do just that because I am proud to be a gamer, I always have been. One quote applies to the origin of the gamers (in the 80’s). With: “gamers are depicted as the contemporary nerd group, a mildly downtrodden crowd, shunned by the jocks and achievers. Gamers are the losers who spend their days in darkened bedrooms furiously tapping on controllers or keyboards in a solitary pursuit that sits close to masturbation in the mind“, in the old days that was certainly true as the image presented of gamers as others saw them. Yet is that true now? Now the gaming industry is a $100+ billion a year. Now we see that people group and identify with the worlds of Skyrim, post-apocalyptic USA and as other groups are formed around successful games like GTA5, Far Cry, League of Legends and Overwatch that image is not only no longer true, it is in opposition of all those developers called by the need of $$$ (and their developing powers). So when we see “Within the next century ‘gamers’ will be a term that encompasses every gay and transgender person, every girl and woman, every politician in the cabinet, everyone with a title in the House of Lords, every teacher, nurse, banker, social worker, dustman and paedophile“, which is an unsettling truth. It is unsettling because even as we all want our fellow gamers to be merely gamers regardless of gender, we cannot (and perhaps should not) see what they are in real life. So it is not impossible that the serial killer hides in GTA5 multiplayer, killing whatever he/she can until the call for real blood is needed. So my view is in opposition of President Trump, he is stating that every rectangle is a square, whilst I identify that every square is a rectangle, as well as proving him wrong at the same time. It is not the same but there is a foundation and a foundation where a person can hide in anonymity. I belief it is a good thing, but it could be abused by those who have in ‘the core of the matter’ no business being there. In that part the Statesman does not make the case but the call for the cancellation of any community is not overtly evil. It is a non-invalid view, especially when we see “the urge to form groups with like-minded people is a universal one. But when that collective power is turned against those on the margins of the group“, so even as we are gamers, and we unite and think alike, but when that makes us a target, is the call valid to endanger some of us? I believe that when we unite we are more than ready for those attacking us, even if we merely start protecting our fellow gamers by calling the mommy and daddy of their attackers, no matter what age they have.

In the end I hope that people like Soe Gschwind-Penski realise that every real gamer is happy that she is around and that we have no qualms about her presence, even if she, in addition, defeats us in the most humiliating way. It merely ups the ante for us to get better, and that is in the core of multiplayer gaming, a drive to improve, a fellow gamer that makes any of us a better gamer, how great is such a life?

Live it to find out!



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What did you expect?

This all started with an article in the Guardian last December, in the air of ‘it was a day plus one before Santa‘, the title ‘Game shares fall 40% after profit warning‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/dec/23/game-shares-fall-40-percent-after-profit-warning-xbox-one-ps4). You see, none of this should be a surprise to anyone. When we look today we see all these ‘what will come in 2016‘ articles (read: multiple) and that is JUST the Guardian, not even a serious gaming source. Another article kicks of one of its paragraphs with ‘E3 WILL BRING SURPRISES‘ and then it reverts to the mundane “This year, we can expect Nintendo’s new machine and plenty of VR games but, beyond that, little is known. And that’s just how we like it“, if that is so, then why waste space on it in January whilst that event is 22 weeks away. Ignoring the event for no less than 10 weeks would not have been out of place. That article ends with ‘A YEAR OF BIG GAMES‘, where we see the quote “but most exciting for gamers are the big sequels“, with several mentions of games that had been delayed from 2015. What they all forget is an element the mentioned article will give you.

So let us take a look!

The subtitle is as good a place as any to start. It states ‘Gamers failed to buy enough games for new consoles to make up for a steep fall in demand for older formats‘, so how about giving the reality of the games which means the subtitle should have been ‘Game developers fail to deliver quality, they failed in many cases on delivering on time, some delayed until 2017, creating a new level of gaming uncertainty‘ that subtitle would have been on point. Assassins Creed is one of those titles, Unity failed massively, the reason for mentioning it is because Syndicate did not become the success it could have been mainly because of Unity. A game that used to be sold out on special editions is now getting flogged for $50 including art book, statue, extra missions and soundtrack. A game sold at 33% of the initial value, new in box. Yes, I give you right now that Syndicate does not deserve to be regarded as a failure, but it remains a non-success. It still has an amount of glitches and issues that go back all the way to brotherhood, they have never been addressed. Mass NPC issues remain and the list goes on, yet again, the graphics department delivered, sound delivered too. There are in mission issues, yet for the most they did work OK, in a few cases they were actually decently brilliant. Yet in all this the NPC issues rose. For example, I can get attacked and the police does not act. I pull a knife and they all start shooting, even in my own (read: liberated) areas. The fact that they act on me is one thing, the fact that they do not act against my attackers is another thing. It becomes even more a joke when a fellow Rook NPC keeps on pulling his knife against my kidnap target alerting the police who now has a go at me too, all scripted screw ups that were not addressed. Yet overall the latest AC is not a failure, in the same light that I placed the Ubisoft business model in the past, planning for non-failure also means that you will never get an exceptional success. Perhaps Ubisoft will catch on at some point (one would hope, would one not?)

But this is not about Ubisoft, they are just one element in a group of many.

The quote: “However, independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said he was “staggered” by Game’s profit warning after John Lewis boasted of strong sales of computer games earlier this week. “We had just begun to wonder if Game Digital might be a good recovery stock,” he said. The department store said gaming and console sales were up 180% in the week to 19 December, picking them out as one of its Christmas bestsellers“, but based on what was this? Special in house deals with 2 games? Places like EB Games are offering new 1TB consoles with 4 or 5 games that is quite the Christmas pick. Oh and what are the numbers? When you normally sell 10 consoles 180% really does not amount to that much. I would think that Nick Bubb would have done his homework a little more meticulously, or perhaps staggering was a factor after he learned that £2290 is not something that gives price to 180% (I am not saying that I know their sales numbers, but I am asking why no one else is making a clear investigation there). And on what margins are those placed? A £299 console is one thing, one with 3 games at £279 is a good deal for the buyer, but it equally means it is a product without margin for the shops.

Yet the big UK player Game should have known that this issue is a lot more clear, so the statement “Game said a 20% rise in sales of games for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 had not offset a 57% slump in sales of older Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games” is a mere given, something they should have known going into the holiday season. You see, many big titles have been delayed, what was coming before Christmas is now coming in March and in a few cases in April. Big titles have not been the success they were supposed to be and in all this So when another article in the Guardian one day later reports “According to the industry body Ukie, sales of new boxed console games in the UK fell 6.3% in 2014 to £935m, and were overtaken by the 17.6% rise in sales of digital console and PC games to £1.05bn“, we should ask the question that Stuart Dredge might have been trying to hide within the text. The issue is “The Steam Winter Sale has gone live today, Dec. 22nd, and runs until January 4th“, yes ‘in sales of digital console and PC games‘ translates to Steam sales for PC games, a place where games were down by 50%, in several cases even down by 80%, so as many game shops have a non-return or exchange policy for PC games (which does make perfect sense), people are happy to download a few 4GB packages (in some cases not more than 2) and store that on their multi-Terabyte drives and the list included discounted games like Witcher 3, Metal Gear Solid 5 and Just Cause 3. So, when we know this, the ‘staggered’ response by Nick Bubb comes across as extremely insincere. Perhaps he did not do his homework? How can a person in that field not be up to date as to what Steam does and how that impact the shops, you see Steam has done this before, so it can’t have been that unexpected.

In that same issue we have places like Game and EB Games. In some cases they rely on fans who want their new upcoming Dark Souls 3 (the apocalypse edition) and that game will likely sell out in mere minutes, yet the dangers when a shop is losing space to a stack of Charing Cross editions, because the previous version was so bad is in equal measure not that weird a surprise.

There is still one other part that links to this. You see, we all play the way we can, some only play the way that they can afford and Microsoft has been dubious in several actions, the issues now arising from the Windows 10 update give more towards the fear that at the earliest moment Microsoft will close the valve on ‘pre-owned’ games, a side people rely upon because the average working family no longer has a spare £50 for a new game. Hell, most people in London are hard pressed to have £50 for simple things like food, so how is the drop in revenue such a big mystery?

The UK (as well as many other places on this world) have been dealing with a sliding cost of living crises. It has been around for 2 years and too many people are ignoring this fact, in any normal household games will be the first one to vanish from any budget consideration, which gives rise to the growing need of places like Steam, because between no gaming and playing a game 2 years old at £5, people usually tend to know what to do. The interesting side is that many of those games do not need the latest hardware, actually, those steam consoles will support the bulk of those games on high quality settings, so the Nextgen consoles are losing their footing, a fact that someone like Nick Bubb should have been aware of straight of the bat.

Are you still confused?

Open your wallet, consider your bank account (your present balance) and now go to any gaming store and get a new game. How many of you will actually do that? As I see it, 40% cannot afford it, 60% does not want to do this because they either do not care for games (which is fair enough), they have other bills to pay (which is fair enough too), or they are waiting for one of those delayed games, because they can only afford a game 3-4 times a year. These are given situations for well over 80% of the people in the UK, in addition it is a similar size in most of the EEC nations, so why exactly are we surprised on these sliding scales? I cannot answer why many readers are surprised (many might be genuinely surprised), but we should ask a few serious questions when retail gurus like Nick Bubb are absent in comprehension. In that case we should be asking a few other questions.

And games are not out of the woods yet, not for the near immediate future. Yes, most of us will run towards No Man’s Sky the day it is released (in around 22 weeks), but consider how we as gamers (millions of us) find fun and joy in a $20 game named Minecraft, or on the Tablets on a $5 game named Blockheads, how long until the analysts are catching on the hyped inflated games galore for PC and next gen is a massive marketing mesh that is short term, based upon a turnover need from the initial 21 days of release? We will always want games like Skyrim, Fallout 4, GTA, Diablo 3 and a few others, but that list is a lot shorter than those marketeers will admit to and the large players remain in denial. Hoping on a new shooter online where people do nothing more that run and ‘super jump’ on all levels like it was the first version of Unreal Tournament. How long until that gets boring and old? The remake Doom might be the first one that infuses life into that group, a mere original gems in a mountain of too many fake crystals.

Yes, we will see a few games we all want, we will see games that we thought we wanted because as games developers rely on hype, they are equally extremely unwilling to give out review copies until AFTER the game is released, because it would hurt numbers and the press at large (the real one and the gaming press) tends to be too often in need of advertisers to actually do something about it.

Finally we get back to Ubisoft, but now for very different reasons. You see, they are offering something called a ‘humble bundle’, which one place stated costed $1. I cannot verify this, but the offer (regardless of price) includes:

  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist ($10 or more)
  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier ($10 or more)
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas 2
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell
  • Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction
  • Beta access to The Division

One source implies that the price is open, but if you paid a few bucks more (like $11) you got a few additional beauties. I was never a Rainbow Six fan, but a huge Splinter cell fan and even only those games at $11 is an impressive deal, so when you consider this, when you see that PC gamers are offered a steamy steam life with excellent not so new games, in a price range that most people could afford, how is the 40% drop in shares of Game still a mystery?

The gaming world is in an uproar, because they did not tap the vein of quality when they should, they did not press forward for true non-annual innovation when they could, leaving marketing to make the call on hype, instead of truly addressing their fan base needs. An expensive mistake that has led to the downfall of the biggest players (EA and Ubisoft), gamers are realising more and more that indie developers will bring what they desire, a great gaming experience; and only now is the press at large considering that the need of advertisement revenue and the need of their readers base is not aligned, the question becomes how will this be addressed?

I do know that when the press is relying on a ‘staggered’ Nick Bubb for gaming, too many people might be looking in the wrong direction.


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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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