Tag Archives: xbox 360

Upping the game

Today started with a nice revelation, Microsoft has taken the sales offensive. Even as we were treated to ”Bethesda’s online action role-playing game “Fallout 76” won’t be available on Valve’s Steam platform during beta or when it launches on November“, the story changes when we look at the PC games in the Microsoft store we see: “Pre-order to get access to the Fallout 76 B.E.T.A.“, so it seems that Microsoft is setting the bar really high, in addition for that part the game is equally available on launch day for those who have the Microsoft Game Pass. The Game Pass is $11 a month solution (in Australia); you get no option to buy the pass for a year (as far as I could tell), which is a drag, and you better have the download options (not to mention the storage) before you commit to it, but there is no denying that it is a deal that is way too good to be true. Microsoft even offers a 14 day free trial, which implies that the games are only available to play as long as you are a member (this is speculation!), not unlike the PS Plus setting. The pass has XB1 and Xb360 backward compatible games and it is a HUGE list. It includes a list of the upcoming top games to be released this year makes the Game Pass an essential choice. The Pass at roughly $130 for a year) will include well over $600 of AAA+ top games, yet to be released in 2018. So apart from the download hassle the pass represents hundreds of dollars of saving in this year alone. I personally believe that they messed up some of the visibility and marketing, but that was their choice. The smaller issue is the backward thinking cap of the US, for people outside of the US (Australia for example) games (when bought outright) are roughly 28% more expensive (and that is after I corrected for the exchange rate). There are also ‘shadows’ here. I do not believe it to be, but there are. For example one source gave me “These eleven Xbox Game Pass games are “leaving soon”“, I cannot tell whether they will also be removed if you have added them to your library (so check this when you decide), the second shadow needs to be mentioned as the quote was: “Personally, paying for the Xbox Game Pass program and Xbox Live Gold is quite a monthly cost“, which is ABSOLUTELY BOGUS! The Xbox Live is a service subscription to play multiplayer, so if the Game Pass title has that, then yes, you will need Xbox Live as you always would have needed it. For the simple player part it is not needed, just as the setting is today. In addition ‘quite a monthly cost‘, is silly to say the least, even on a budget, the setting is that you have Xbox live $80 and Game Pass $130, gives us full and complete access to $12,000 worth of games for $210 a year, anyone debating whether that is expensive needs to get their heads examined. Now, there is no way that you will like all games that would be silly. Yet the setting now allows for you to try games at $0 that you would never have bought in the first place, a setting where you can grow the games dimension that you are in. I believe that to be a really great setting. The part not mentioned is of course the downloading time and subscription fees of the internet, even as those prices have been going down, or better stated giving you more download at the same price, it is a cost you need to consider, yet at the setting where you get access to $12,000 in games, which represents more than I have ever bought in a lifetime across the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One together is an astounding part you must remember. If only Microsoft had thought that hard drive issue through in 2012, things would be even better for them. I still see that as the one Achilles heel in all this, yet with the rumoured new Console (Project Scarlett) announced for 2020, we do know that Game Pass is a long term setting of gaming for Microsoft and whatever sets the console will be optimised for the billions that Game Pass will bring in. In all this we might ramble too early on the storage issue, but it is an issue Microsoft knowingly and willingly ignored and in all this ‘the most powerful console in the world‘ is impacted through it. In addition, I have had the longest issue with Microsoft marketing (for various reasons, so as Microsoft states in Windows Central: “Xbox Scarlett hardware will ‘set the benchmark’“, I tend to get nervous, you see, they have no idea (well some idea) on how gaming evolves, yet in the end, we will not know what will be available by 2022, so at that point any console will be merely on par, 14 months after it is bought. I moved to console gaming as the update for a PC in 2002 went overboard. Processor and graphic card showed that you would need $2500-$3000 to be up to date for high end gaming and that got you roughly 24 months at best. So gaming with the additional $200 a month, as well as updating drivers, patching and whatever else needed made me move more and more towards consoles and the Xbox 360 delivered perfectly for almost 8 years (at $700), so the cost of living was set to the games bought not to the additional cost of upgrading the hardware to play games. An awesome setting, Yes there was the one off for the hard drive (from 20 to 120 gigabyte, at $119 at that time), but it was well spend. In the end I bought 2 Xbox 360’s, the second one was essential as I got another red rings of death 75 hours before the release of Fallout New Vegas, so I went: “Eff That!” and got the one with the 250 GB drive and it still works, so apart from a high blood pressure event once, the Xbox 360 was a golden choice for any gamer. I also had the PS3, which had the option to upgrade the drive as the PS4 had, so in all this the entire hard drive issue was out there for 12 years, ignoring that part (as well as always online bullying) angers me, because there was never any need, for none of it.

Why does it matter?

It is a level of orchestration, pushing people into a direction before they are ready (and perhaps they never will be). In this Cambridge Analytica is a larger hurdle then anyone imagined and the gamers are sketchy under the most stable conditions. Hackers, phishers, cheaters and trolls are always around the corner and it is best seen when you investigate ‘League of Legends’, I never played the game, but the amount of messages giving way that the victims of bullying and trolls are worse off than the perpetrators is why there should be an online ‘off’ switch. It is essential because the resources needed are allegedly not used correctly (debatable if that would have been possible), and the systems do not have the settings to protect players. The option to just play offline for a while is perhaps the only pressure valve that works (not on all games though), so when we look at MailGuard and we get it in regards to Office 365 (just one day old): “The cunning thing about this phishing scam is that once the victim has entered their username and password, the fake login page redirects them to a genuine Microsoft website, so they think that nothing is amiss. Meanwhile, the criminals have collected their login credentials and are able to steal their online identity for all kinds of nefarious purposes, like fraud, invoice falsification and malware spamming“, Microsoft needs to realise that they have a larger issue and they cannot fix it (basically no one can). Well it is possible, some of the kids involved have been identified, and by shooting them in the back of the head and leaving a message with the parents to start taking notice of what their kids are doing you get change, although some might find it a bit extreme (an issue that is probably a setting for the eyes of the beholder).

Why the extreme example?

The issue is not merely being online, the issue is that too much is online and even if we wanted to apply Common Cyber Sense all the time, there will be a hiatus and when it comes, it will be at the wrong moment in the wrong place. At present the actual success rate on finding and convicting cyber criminals is less than 2%, it is even less when we realise that not everything gets reported. It is in that atmosphere that game streaming is about to be set to a much larger extent. A setting that is based on mere authentication and not on non-repudiation (uncertain how achievable that is at present). You show me a company that guarantees you 100% safety and I will introduce you to someone who is lying to you. As the gaming industry is a $100 billion plus market, the issue was forever that gaming was low impact (for the most), people had more often than not a physical copy, there were more and more parts that one had to overcome, so for cyber criminals it was not an interesting market. Yet with the upcoming changes to the gaming environment it changes, all is online, all is set on central servers and that is when BlackMailWare and RansomWare will become a much more lucrative business for those targeting gamers. Even when you think it does not happen, what happens when your online account gets scrambled, your passwords changed from the outside and for a mere 0.01 bitcoin you can get it back. Systems like that are already used, some will consider that paying $88 is preferable to waiting and losing scores, statistics and access to files with the logs of hundreds of hours of playing a game. When you see the time some invested on games like Diablo 3, Skyrim, Fallout 4 and now upcoming Fallout 76 you get the optional setting where ransom might be successful. And the setting of ‘always online’ makes the threat to console gamers a lot more realistic. You merely have to google the issues on League of Legends and World of Warcraft to see the impact and it is much larger than some think it is. You think it is simple and an adult thing to live with, yet when Microsoft has to explain that danger 250,000 times to the non-technological mother and father of a 16 year old playing and suddenly losing all access, perhaps being permabanned in the process as well, at that point the game changes quickly.

Having a decent non-repudiation solution in place might limit the damage to a larger extent, but that system does not exist for gamers, mere authentication and even when upgrading the issue is not the 100 that do, it is the 15,000,000 who haven’t. this is part of the setting that Microsoft faces and it is facing it on a daily basis with Microsoft 365, where the users are (for the most) adults, so when we get to the console it becomes a different setting. This is why the console evolution is a little more treacherous. When the gamer has the option to remain offline (when needed) he/she has options, when forced online they fall away. Sony got hacked a few times (at least twice), with millions of accounts and the details in the open, the damage was larger than some expected and I reckon that most avoided damage was because the overwhelming amount of gamers had physical copies of the game. So offline gaming was never impacted, merely the multiplayers losing a few days of access.

Now, with Game Pass that would not be an issue and the optional overall damage of $210 (two subscriptions) are easily tended to, in the worst case scenario you pay for it twice and a few weeks later it is either refunded, or you are all paid up for +1 year.

Now, let’s change the setting that the Business insider gave us one month ago. With ‘A desperate hacker tried selling US military files for $150 — only to find no one wanted them‘ (at https://www.businessinsider.com.au/hacker-us-military-drone-files-for-sale-2018-7), this seems hilarious, until you consider the following facts, the first one is “The hacker, who is believed to reside in a poverty-stricken country in South America, said his internet connection was slow and that because his bandwidth was limited, he did not download all the files prior to finding a willing buyer“, so it is in a low yield place, the second one is “The hacker also tapped into live footage of surveillance cameras at the US-Mexico border and NASA bases, and an MQ-1 Predator flying over the Gulf of Mexico“, we still have a sense of humour, live camera watching! Yay! Now we add “the vulnerable computers were taken offline, which inadvertently cut off the hacker’s access to the files“, OK, it happens, sometimes a computer has a missed security patch. Now we add ‘a maintenance manual for the MQ-9A Reaper drone, a list of airmen assigned to a Reaper drone unit, manuals on how to suppress improvised explosive devices‘, is seems harmless, right? Yet when you consider that this was a professional setting where the person had access to “documents belonging to a US Air Force service member stationed at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, and documents belonging to another service member believed to be in the US Army“, we see the setting where Military security was circumvented, from a close to powerless place into Military hardware. so when we are confronted with “enough knowledge to realise the potential of a very simple vulnerability and use it consistently“, we see the first part, the second part was given with “The Netgear router vulnerability, which dates back to 2016, allowed hackers to access private files remotely if a user’s password is outdated. Despite several firmware updates and countless news articles on the subject, thousands of routers remain vulnerable“, this is a setting involving adults (one would hope), they cannot get their heads right and you are submitting teenagers and gamers (in a non-professional setting) to those exploitations. Microsoft can market all it can, and to some extent they can fix some parts, but the ‘always online‘ will still be out there and that is where the damage gets to the people.

The prosecution fail rate makes it cool and interesting to go after gamers and the many hours of having to download games will at some point present an opening for hackers, that market is growing and it will hit gamers, there is close to 0% avoiding that.

The question becomes, how ready will Microsoft be? How much resources will be impacted on their customer care and customer service when it hits? The Xbox 360 gave them the red rings of death issue (which went it happened to me was fixed awesomely, it merely took 3-4 weeks), which is acceptable as a new console was shipped to me. The setting when it is in cyberspace, the game changes as a million accounts could be affected. Some hackers will be creative and resort to a low corruption setting (like the dBase virus), some will merely download and wipe, the fact is that even if it is resolved, it will take time to resolve and that is where gamers lose patience really really fast. My setting to buy another console to fix it is one example (I had the funds when it happened), yet what happens when you are in the middle of a Diablo 3 season, which is time restrained and someone ransoms your access? In current setting the damage is partially avoidable; the new Scarlett setting leaves the partial part up for debate. In addition, as the number of people resorting to that path increases, the interest to mess with that part becomes a lot more interesting to Cyber criminals.

In this we need to look at the other side too, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) gives us “cybercrime is costing the Australian economy up to $1 billion annually in direct costs alone“, when we look global, we see Experian with the quote: “Ransomware attacks, data breaches, theft of intellectual property, sales of counterfeit goods and other illicit activities are generating at least $1.5 trillion in annual revenue“, so globally, when gamers are added to that list of victims, how high will that priority be? Do you think that they get prime time consideration, or will the party line become ‘the best and easiest thing to do is to just start again‘, I was told that by Microsoft when my Xbox one profile got somehow damaged in the first year. Now try the setting with access, invested cash and time and tenfold the amount of open targets. From my personal point of view, when there is an Office 365 impacting against the Xbox Red accounts wiped, how many resources will Microsoft have? I am certain that the business customers get first dibs on whatever they need. Now this last part does not count against Microsoft, it is merely the lesser of two high cost evils, it is reality.

Even as Microsoft is showing that it is upping the game on gaming and consoles, it is also upping to optional damage and hardship to gamers. I say optional, because in the first, we have no idea what that red box will be doing, we have no idea what the settings are for near future gaming (in 16 months) and we do not know how certain changes will actually impact the gaming sphere, but Sony has shown us that the dangers are real.

In the end, we see that Microsoft is upping the game when it comes to gaming, there is no denying it, yet how the future will pan out and whether Microsoft has truly upped the game for gamers is still to be determined. That is not a negative thing, because any expectation for the future is merely speculation, yet the dangers to their gamers will increase by a lot and that part remains the question mark in all this. Some could have been prevented by a lot, but Microsoft is clearly steering into a settings where adherence to ‘always online‘ is the setting they demand, one way or the other. Even if the prison has golden bars, it remains a prison and that part needs to be clear. The fact that gamers do not get the choice in the matter is what matters, not only from the cyber threat side. Congestion is a growing concern on a global scale. Even as Bill Morrow, Chief Executive of NBN Co. was idiotic enough to initially blame gamers for the congestion, the truth is that against 4K Netflix and YouTube, gamers are not even a blip on that radar, yet congestion is a present and growing issue, so there is a problem there too. The system is already under pressure and globally 200 million gamers when a large slice of that pie is set to the streaming and virtual copies of games only come into play, congestion will rear its ugly head and those gamers become more than a mere blip. Consider that Bethesda shipped 12 million units to retailers within the first 24 hours of Fallout 4, and consider that a large chunk of these people will immediately download the game on launch day of Fallout 76. so optionally up to 12 million people all downloading a game that is also stated to be 4K, so we are looking to around 100 GB download, that is merely one game title, it will be in a time when there is plenty to download and even now, as we accept that most are physical copies, the truth is that gaming in that way will add to the congestion in a really big way. Most providers are not ready and it will impact the gamers, Netflix users and Stan (the list goes on for a long time) are merely part of all this traffic. I named Bethesda and they are merely one of many players in all this. Microsoft, Ubisoft, Bethesda, and Electronic Arts; all people pushing (or getting pushed) towards the virtual release only side of things down the track.

Why does this matter now?

One of the big events QuakeCon 2018 starts tomorrow and that will also be the place where more specific information will be given by the actual makers on more than one title by the way. It will be important on how games are moving forward. It is not merely Fallout 76 (one of the biggest titles anticipated) that is in the upper limits of gaming on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation; it would potentially give the direction of where they are going with the Elder Scrolls VI. Merely two Bethesda games that literally has millions of followers, so there is an essential need to take notice of Bethesda for several reasons. This reverts back to Microsoft, because Bethesda games have a huge following on all platforms. It also means that in that setting (set against the rumour that Fallout 76 is online multiplayer only, yet you can play the game alone) any congestion will topple game joy completely. We know that there is enough experience with Elder Scrolls Online, so it is not the setting that Bethesda is going in blind in any of this, but at the same time the gaming dimension is changing at the same time, so that change is impacting in more than one way; that is the push that Microsoft is going for, which is all fine, yet at that that point we will be faced with more outside interference factors and congestion is a real factor, one that players will be confronted with to a much larger degree in the near future.

If Microsoft gets that all right, then it will be picking up momentum in a scary way and at that point the question will be, can Sony match this? I personally love that part, if we see a setting where Sony and Microsoft push each other to new heights is great because in all this, the gamer ALWAYS wins! And over time this push is a realistic one, yet in some places we will optionally see a time where the providers cannot match what the consumers need and that is a new setting for many gamers. In the past we merely accepted what was available, in the new setting you get to play based on what you pay for and that is something we have not been confronted with. Anyone thinking that this will not happen; think again! It might be the selling point for people to switch providers, but there will be a clear setting of borders, borders that set what you can do and that is where we see the overall cost go up, yet to what extent is a clear unknown for now.

 

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As you are exploited

Today is different, with the E3 a mere week away; it is time for the people to become aware. Now, you will take great offense, especially if you are a drug dealer, a sex slave trader or an employee of Microsoft. You know what, today I do not care, especially if you are part of the third category. The media will not keep you informed of certain matters, so it is time to take the gloves off.

I have had issues with Microfsoft in the past that is no secret. I have clearly stated that they dropped the ball on at least three occassions, yet they have taken it a little further. Soon we might see some patch, or some message that there was a bug and it got fixed, but no company is this incompetent and there have been examples of true incompetancy, especially in politics. Yet this is not about that.

We are a week away from the E3 and all players are leaking hints and innuendo at nearly every corner in town. Gamespot is giving us: “E3 2018 Xbox One Rumors“, Polygon is giving us: “we expect to see Microsoft to use E3 to reveal new features and expand ongoing programs to further bridge the divide between Xbox and Windows PC gaming” and the list goes on. Yet none of them are zooming in on the exploitation of gamers, gamers that are now advertising coin for Microsoft. We see very little of that. It is my personal view that the Xbox One series now offer 30% less than the Xbox360. Whilst Sony is enjoying “PS4 hardware sales in April were more than Xbox One and Switch combined“, as far as we can tell mainly due to the release of God of War, in addition, some sources in give us that for April 2018, The Switch sold 171,000, the Xbox One sold 132,000 giving the raise that the Switch needs to counter Microsoft and surpass their total numbers. In addition, Forbes gave us 4 days ago “nine out of 10 belong to Switch“, the tenth game is a PS4 game. In the entire Amazon Top 10 Microsoft with their Xbox One does not show up at all. And now we get the big bang. The Pokémon Franchise is giving the players a lot more, you see with “What happens when your mobile Pokémon game gets more than 800 million downloads, and then you release two companion titles for Switch that let users sync their progress between both platforms? You’re going to sell a ridiculous amount of hardware.” This is the one thing that Sony cannot counter either. A Pokémon hype that allows those players to go on playing outside of their mobile range, by doing the Switch. Neither party counted on that and move it will impact both, optionally reducing the Microsoft Xbox total sales to number three no later than thanksgiving. A bold move that is about to push Nintendo forward in a way we had not predicted and that is the reality the gamers get to see at the E3. You can read that part all (at https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonevangelho/2018/05/30/nintendo-switch-games-are-dominating-amazons-best-sellers-list), including a few small facts that I have not mentioned yet. Now we get to the overwhelming part.

How do you like to get exploited by Microsoft? That is the question on my mind yesterday when (not for the first time), I got their marketing machine all over my console.

Now normally I do not care, you can try to ignore it, but when the functionality of a console is severed, you cannot ignore it. So normally I get the direct view of my console desktop, the parts in red are advertisement, Microsoft added that, and the sponsored one is expected to be paid advertisement, so Microsoft is gaining an optional $3 million a day (that is if they charge $0.10 per user). So they optionally gain $3 million by using our desktop without permission (intentional speculation). The issue is that suddenly my games page with pinned games was gone, instead of the functional part I usually have, I got something that is usually not there.

 

I got the third screen, which you can see is useless for 75%, the second screen was gone. Now, any user can tell that I could click on the ‘my games & apps‘, scroll to the game I wanted to play, but that is not what I paid for, was it? I merely wanted to start the game I was playing earlier that week, so the only way to get my pinned games screen to appear was to restart the computer. This is harassment! This is not a bug, this is Microsoft telling me and harassing me to take notice of the Xbox One X and to get Microsoft gold. This is intent! It reflects directly to a piece in the Computer World from 2016. The article (at https://www.computerworld.com/article/3101947/microsoft-windows/more-forced-advertising-creeps-into-windows-10-pro.html) gives us: “When the Anniversary Update rolls out on Aug. 2, Windows 10 Pro users will no longer be able to turn off certain kinds of advertising. That presents a real concern for admins, who will not be able to keep Microsoft from pushing the likes of Candy Crush Soda Saga onto their domain-joined Pro machines. It’s also a frightening concern for anyone who paid for Pro’s GPEdit feature“, and with “Microsoft recently announced it will be able to push live tiles for the likes of Photoshop Express onto any Windows 10 PC, unless it’s an Enterprise or Education version. Starting Aug. 2, you won’t be able to block them”, we now see implied that Microsoft can now push advertisement on children with or without parental control. Is that why you buy a console for your child, or for yourself for that matter, to watch advertisements?

Now, the issue is not merely your child getting exposed to advertisers, the issue is that my second screen was just casually not available until I rebooted the system, that is as screwed up as it gets, I do not believe it to be a bug, I believe it to be the intentional push from Microsoft to “Buy a newer Xbox and get Xbox Gold whilst you are busy!” I did not sign up for any of that. As the system is flawed and architecturally unsound, spending another dollar on it is just too ill advised an action.

And the bad news does not end there for Microsoft. If sources are to be believed, we see “It looks like Epic Games’ battle royale spectacular Fortnite is coming to Nintendo Switch. A leak posted on 4Chan’s video games board Thursday night, which suggested the game would appear at the E3 conference alongside eight other games, came just before more reports emerged Friday that the game would receive a port to the Nintendo hybrid console“, it is not that bad for Sony, yet, the optional leap in revenue and consoles sold is going to be a lot higher than anyone imagined, it will be the first time that Sony needs to up their game by a fair amount. Even as we see that the exclusive games for the PlayStation console is off the wall, the effort of growth by Nintendo is not to be underestimated. This comes in sharp contrast that we see (at https://www.extremetech.com/gaming/269049-even-the-xbox-one-x-cant-stop-microsofts-console-sales-slide). The issue is that Microsoft will not release official consoles sold anymore (not a great surprise), yet, if we are to believe the quote “implies Microsoft’s total Xbox One X shipments were extremely poor in 2017 — around 5 million units, compared with roughly 20 million units for the PS4 Pro“, so that implies that the most powerful console in the world merely appealed to 1 out of 5 people upgrading, or buying a new next generation console. Things are considerably worse than anyone expected, perhaps the advertisement on your console is to pay for the multiplayer server bills (and its electricity) that Microsoft faces every month? (Slight punch below the belt)

Whatever the reasoning of all the ball fumbles that we have seen from 5 months before the first Xbox One was launched, the entire mess is just getting bigger and unless we see true new exclusive games and true innovation coming from Microsoft, it is my personal view that when it comes to gaming, Microsoft is pretty much done for. Even now there are a few issues rising, yet I prefer to wait until the actual news is released as I do not want to kick a game below the belt before verifiable facts are set to the net and media.

Yet when we go back to the issue that truly angered me, I wonder why Microsoft is this stupid. it is almost like they want us the switch away from them. How can a storage weakness remain unattended for 6 years? Sony solved it on day one of the PS3 and that solution was maintained throughout the PS4 and PS4 pro, the additional issue is that the difference was a mere $15, so that should not have been an issue either. If there is one thing that speaks for Microsoft than it is Forza 7, it is exquisite in many ways, and Microsoft should tend to the needs of those fans as much as possible if they do not want to see this group switch to F1 2017 on PS4, or Mario Kart 8 on the Nintendo Switch.

I think for the most, Microsoft brought all the woe onto itself, and they have no reason to break down in tears or complain about the gamers, the fact that Nintendo surpassed the expectations in what fun was and Sony brought us how awesomeness can be surpassed (God of War) is just the beginning in a race that Microsoft has no valid reason to win for any other reason to end up with the wooden spoon. There is now enough evidence and visual proof that my predictions will not be wrong, the E3 has leaked so much information that the setting is now reduced to a mere exercise. Still, there is a side we are missing out on and that is the part that still matters, the indie developers could tilt towards Microsoft a little, yet the damage has been done, with advertisements and lack of gamer care (as I personally see it).

I reckon we all hope that Microsoft gets a homerun at the E3, yet there is now enough evidence that this is not likely the case, especially in light of the astounding results Nintendo gets to show (making Sony more than a little nervous) and the fact that so far, the Sony exclusives are making people buy or upgrade their PS4, is rising, especially as some Spiderman YouTube videos on the PS4 have now surpassed 32 million views, that against God of War having only had 19 million views and crushing all sales predictions. Let’s be fair, one does not guarantee the other, but the interest has not waned over a year, implying that this game will be out of stock for the better part of a month when it is released in September. All options Microsoft missed out on, to some degree. As stated, there is no way that any gamer loving games would not be impacted by Forza 7, it will set a new standard that is hard to equal and time will tell if that will be proven to be true.

Until then Microsoft has so many things to fix and merely a week to prove that they can fix things, because 4 days later, after the E3 the people will decide and for now it does not look good for Microsoft.

 

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The end of diversity?

We are seeing a push in the gaming world, one that is coming before the next gen follow ups are here. Before the PS4Pro is maturing, before even the Xbox Scorpio is launched, we see new games that are told to be another style of Far Cry (Horizon Zero Dawn), another Dark Souls (Nioh), another Sniper Elite and in that same trend more sequels and more prequels. Yet, the overall game time seems to be dwindling down. Resident Evil 7 for all its amazing changes and story line, the game can be played in 10 hours, with speed gamers (not my cup of soup) doping it in less than 2 hours.

The same people who trolled No Mans Sky, pointing at absurd newscasts by writers trying to score exclusivity points and airing utter BS video’s with ‘scientific’ reviews whilst the game offered well over 50 hours (to get the 100% achievements) of gaming fun. That game gets trolled! In equal measure they all praise Tomb Raider, a game that could be completed in 12-15 hours. The quantity and quality of games falling more and more when considering the cost of games in dollars per gaming hour.

Now, let’s get back to the mention of Far Cry 3. For me a pivotal point as the first one on Xbox 360 was the only game I ever traded in because it was such a bad game. I had never done that before and I had not done that since. I steered clear of the second game and I only played the third one when it was offered on either PS Plus or Gold Live (I forgot which one), that is when I learned what an amazing game Far Cry three had turned out to be. So as Horizon Zero Dawn is ‘tainted’ to be some Far Cry/Tomb Raider game, some people get nervous. Are they doing it because of the references, or the lack of play that Tomb Raider offered?

Dan Silver of the Guardian (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/20/horizon-zero-dawn-review-a-stunning-but-barely-evolved-rpg-contradiction) states “At times Horizon: Zero Dawn, the latest title from Dutch studio Guerrilla Games, those behind the Killzone series, feels uncannily like prophecy rather than escapism” as well as “in truth, there’s no real freedom here to play any role other than that proscribed by the game’s writers” and in conclusion “the RPG elements of Horizon: Zero Dawn are undercooked and ultimately unnecessary, or a sneaking acknowledgement that its action is so good players will want to jump straight into it – but both sentiments have a ring of truth“. The last one gives the part that matters with ‘both sentiments have a ring of truth‘, this is the can of worms I see.

Now let’s state this up front: ‘I have not played this game yet!

The game gets released in a week and what YouTube offered via Guerrilla Games shows a game that is well worth the time and also worth the effort. It is the image shown by Guerrilla games and there is no doubt that they are showing the more enticing parts. Yet the fight in the dark showed that there are more sides to the game, there is a mandatory intro part and there are parts that separate acts, so that you cannot take some ultimate short cut. All very acceptable in gaming.

In that same manner I saw some 15 things to learn before you buy Mass Effect 4 and I never bothered to watch the whole list. Speculation and listed ‘innovation’ from demos by people who are not involved with making the game. The only part that was interesting is that the launch was done between Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3, which is not surprising. At this point, in light of the Microsoft Console Unconsented Data Collections that are currently happening, I have switched off my Xbox One for now, which is annoying as I love Elite Dangerous and SubNautica, but fortunately one of them will be released on the PS4 in the coming quarter.

Yet, in the same air of originality I want to play the remastered version of System Shock (also coming to PS4). I feel that my drive is the ability to play this game in what is now possible. In that same trend System Shock 2 makes me equally anxious to replay what I loved so much. There is a list of games that give me this feeling, mainly because they were the originals. These games drove the existence of other new games. Games that were not bad, in some cases great, but it is the original game that drove us towards these games. Yet the creation of some games were uncanny, some made games with vision. Just like the maker FTL games who saw Asteroids and Moon lander and decided to create Oids (very addictive in those days). They were already famous with Dungeon Master and less known was the space explorer and trade game Sundogs, but overall they were true visionaries in games. So was the game the Sentinel on the Atari ST, which was later relaunched (with an awful cover story) on the PC. Cover story or not, they gave the game with the sentiment that the original had with the amazing bonus of the music made by John Carpenter, which was a bonus you should never deny yourself.

It is the decades of experience that made me design the story for a new single player Elder Scrolls (Elder Scrolls: Restoration), which is still on my desk. It gave me the idea for a New Ultima game, yet none of this is original. Our minds allow to create what we loved in the face of what we see now, which is re-engineering at best, it is not creation as such. It might still be the foundation of a great game, yet it is unlikely to become a great game without proper evolution of what initially was. It will appeal to the original lovers of the game with an updated following of those who never played it. Yet as greed comes around the corner, what we hoped to be great (example: Dungeon Keeper on the tablet), becomes a hoax that is soon after hated by all who loved the original. In that same fuel we might love a new Dungeon Keeper 2, a new Magic Carpet and a new Populous. In a similar trend, remaster these originals to Tablets could still work (when we kill the greed driving entities connected to them). Games like Flood were fun to play and the history of games is full of examples that people could and would enjoy if given the chance to play them again.

The issue of diversity rises again and again as we see the failure of true innovative gaming. Far Cry 4 gave us that as it tried to upgrade Far Cry 3 and as I personally saw it fail. In that Far Cry Primal is to some extent equally a non-winner. I phrase it like that because the game has good sides and it is not a bad game, yet the curve and growth allow for more escapism, whilst not giving true challenges in gaming. The issue with the ‘duplicated’ map is not even on my radar because anyone who could memorise a map like that has perhaps different issues to work with. The Ubisoft failure checklist is as I personally see it their biggest problem. In addition, there approach to include more and more might generalise gaming, yet I feel it, it is also reason these games lose more and more success ratings.

This is clearly in contrast with For Honor, which is reviewed as not a great single player game (some advised against getting the game for that reason), but at its core it is an overwhelmingly amazing multi player experience. So far having seen several video’s some at amazing resolutions, For Honor seems to deliver the best multi player action that 2017 is likely to offer. Which early in the year is quite the statement to make.

In all this Horizon New Dawn is still a force to be reckoned with. The biggest threshold now becomes, how many hours does the game offer and have they given thought to replayability. So as we replay Diablo 3 again and again with different characters, we see other games failing in that attempt, or succeed only to the smallest degree. Skyrim is perhaps the only one who offers decent levels of replayability, although we can all accept that the need to surpass level 70 to get to the legendary dragon achievement is still decently beyond ridiculous.

As we accept certain needs, values and requirements, there is always the danger that my view is the view only I would appreciate. In that I disagree, as I have heard similar views from others, some to a smaller extent and some to a larger extent. As I see the replayability option grow, I see that games like SubNautica will score high with the gaming community when the full game is launched on other platforms, seldom have I ever seen a game where the evolution of a game keeps on coming as it now enters the 4th wave of evolution and additions. It is to the same degree that nearly all RPG fans agree that the Witcher 3 is pretty much the most perfect RPG game ever created and as Project Red still has a future RPG (we hope) on the development table (read: Cyberpunk 2077), most gamers are looking forward to what 2018 and 2019 will bring.

So if some places see the light by opening their eyes, we hope that a specific place (Electronic Arts) will take steps to avoid to get the repeat label ‘A Cancer That’s Eroding The Market‘ (by Kotaku), where the quote ““A cynically motivated skeleton of a non-game, a scam that will take your cash and offer nothing in return,” writes Escapist’s Jim Sterling, “A perversion of a respected series, twisted by some of the most soulless, selfish, and nauseating human beings to ever blight the game industry”” is at the heart of the matter of despicability. You see, there are plenty of other games that could make the jump, yet as I see it, when such a game still acquires 4 star ratings, we know that the game is rigged and the provider of these games are trusted less and less. There is a certain failing when we see 136K people gave it a 5 star rating. Not with the push for money spending this game offers! Yet it is a similar population that is crying ‘foul’ with the 50+ hours that No Mans Sky offers and the fact that no extra cash was needed. When you look at the initial videos, the game was to the greatest degree what was promised. We have seen actual issues with the game and most of them were all patched away, none of the patches have been over 150 Mb, whilst the Ubisoft patches that did not solve too many issues surpassed Gigabytes in size. Hello Games with only 11 people achieved something amazing, but that is not what this is about!

I reckon that games like No Mans Sky are likely to be at the rear end, some of the last games that had true diversity in them. It can be the Horizon New Dawn is equally a game offering diversity, but the reviews call that in question to at least the smallest degree. Prey by Arkane Studios shows some originality, but when you play, there are elements that give a Bioshock view, a Dishonored view and more than one source is making the reference to System Shock. It led me to the question, when is new diversity no longer diverse? When we see the architecture and internals, there is a Bioshock feeling to it all (even though this is not under water). When we see the first person abilities with alien powers we see a glimpse of Dishonored. And it is the wrench start that gives us other references. They might just be winks to games like Half Life, it does not make it less diverse. Yet it takes more time and more game play to see actual diversity, so I wonder if we are seeing the end of it. As we play games and wonder about the replay of the Mass Effect and Fable Trilogy, is that the part we now hunger for? That feeling we had when we took another path to see Bowerstone Old Town evolve in a place not with gardens, but muddy with thugs?

Perhaps we want to do the journey one more time, because no matter how we slice it, both trilogies had an amazing storyline and it shows that the TV station FX had the best slogan of them all: ‘the story is everything‘. This is the side we desire and System Shock delivered like no game ever did ever before. Dungeon master had the long term challenge based on the shallowest of reasons (get to the exit). We saw again and again that storylines do the job. In that, a game I never cared for (Final Fantasy series) did deliver way beyond my comprehension, so I am very aware that this game has plenty of reasons to be adored by millions. So as I see it, it might be the equal view that shows us that a game like Prey will deliver on its own merit.

I wonder whether diversity without a decent story has a chance, just like great stories without diversity. In that last example it is the Assassins Creed line that is the best example. From my point of view it is the glitches that killed it, but diversity is equally a reason. When we consider these points, we see that the old great games are still optional winners. They offered originality, diversity and challenge. The response that remake (even 20 years later) is no diversity at all is true and I agree for those replaying it, but for those who never played it before it will be plenty diverse. Now we can depend on that element, as well as the essential element that it is the personal desire to replay a game, yet how does that get us to the never completed remake (at present) game called Midwinter? In the old days, being able to do all these different things on the Atari ST was truly amazing, but those moments have been surpassed long ago by Far Cry 3, so where is its need? We can see that plenty of people would love to see the remake of Paradroid 90, a game that should work easily on tablets and as such it could be a nice way for Andrew Braybrook to increase his retirement fund by a fair bit, because absent a few little issues, the game was near perfect and playable to the largest of extents. I always regarded Loderunner, the ‘1984 game of the year’ in a similar way. I actually had to take the day off (read: sickie) one time as I had been playing all night and continues playing through the day, when I finally made it to level 151 I saw the very first level again yet now at a higher speed. With 80+ lives left I started again until I had enough, I stopped before level 200, exhausted with millions of accumulated points. Best gaming day ever, I was deaf and blind to whatever happened around me and the biggest workout for my Sharp TV ever (in those days).

Perhaps it is that feeling I desire, a feeling many gamers desire, but I do not think so. I believe that the challenges we saw in the past (Mass Effect trilogy) were almost equalled, but never surpassed by anyone, System Shock falls into that category, so do the titles Neverwinter Nights, Dungeon Master (1+2) as well as the 1985 original Elite, which was released on the PC, MAC and Xbox One as Elite Dangerous. The fact that the Elite Dangerous group on Facebook gets dozens of images added on a daily bases for places seen and Elite statuses achieved, shows that this game enhanced and surpassed its own limitation due to limited hardware in 1985. That alone gives rise to the remake of other games. Bullfrog games are likely to top these games, yet the quality that Origin games (Ultima series) offered then and could offer now boggles the mind. In light of what Bethesda Elder Scrolls crated offers a view to remade games that would be overwhelming, whilst not needing to be an Elder Scrolls clone, the challenge of Britannia and the Serpent Isles (Ultima locations) have massive levels of original, never remade options here. The fact that Ultima 4-7 has a deep philosophical drive is equally good as the bulk of RPG games never emulated that part to the degree the Ultima series did. In an age of Intellectual Property, the gaming industry has millions up for grabs, the question is how well this IP has been maintained and at what price are the owners willing to part with it?

This leaves me to the final game that can make it on several fields. In this day and age where the people are eager to have their kids learn abilities through gaming, I cannot remember when, but in the 80’s I was handed a game by Epyx, that was an isometric game where you had to program a droid to walk around scan and avoid obstacles. It was called Chip Bits but never saw the light of day. We can agree that it was a geeky game, but in this day and age where the user age lowers with every iteration of computer hardware, it seems to me that teaching a skill like that could change the implementation curve (and it was truly original). So we are looking at two groups, the ones that were great and the ones that for the silliest of reasons never made it to the final stage. As we see the ease of releasing IOS and Android games, we see a fountain of possible revenue on many levels and the best part is that the starting obstacle is low enough for most toddlers to pass. Even as we see the success of all these mini consoles with dozens of games being released and most of them initially sold out in every shop, is this such a leap? We know that plenty of games have been redone and in some cases surpassed, that is for the games some publishers deemed worthy for release. I remember Psygnosis and the only reason that Lemmings got released because the Marketing manager had nothing to do, literally ‘had nothing to do‘, and those who remember the game might also remember the success it became in the end. So what about the games that didn’t make the cut? Of what about the games that were not that highly regarded initially? ‘Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?‘, an educational game that can easily become a tablet mega seller. Yet, what about the Castles of Dr Creep? Remapped that game might make for a nice puzzle game. So many options, but in itself, there is too much remake on the horizon, which returns me to the initial question:

Are we seeing the end of diversity in gaming?

The answer is yes to a certain extent, but that does not need to be a bad thing, because the limits that we saw in games like Soul Reaver are those we can easily surpass nowadays, meaning that a game that was 20-30 hours on the first PlayStation, could be a 50+ hours game on the PlayStation 4 (and equal systems), giving us plenty to game and plenty to enjoy, whilst the question whether it is diverse enough remains a valid question; one we need to keep in the back of our minds. This remains a valid stopper for a game like Rampage world tour, but is that equally true of a game like Crusader: No remorse? That answer hangs with the evolution the game goes through, meaning that it requires added diversity, showing again that diversity is a gaming currency which decides success to some degree, but it gets added value as the story and challenge are high in the game.

 

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Taking Xbox to Court?

Microsoft seems to have done it again and if the evidence holds up, there will be a powerful backlash towards Microsoft which will have interesting repercussions for Sony. Now, we have seen this all before and even I have a few issues with this all, which was until the following evidence was presented.

  1. The Broadband 4G modem had been exclusively used for the Xbox One.
  2. Security was properly in place (as far as I have been able to confirm)

The following had happened:

Without consent, the Xbox One has seemingly uploaded the following amounts of data:

Date Uploads Date Uploads
2017-01-13 339.1 MB 2017-01-21 591.0 MB
2017-01-14 445.1 MB 2017-01-22 277.6 MB
2017-01-15 242.3 MB 2017-01-23 607.5 MB
2017-01-16 268.8 MB 2017-01-24 210.6 MB
2017-01-17 113.1 MB 2017-01-25 358.8 MB
2017-01-18 793.6 MB 2017-01-26 493.5 MB
2017-01-19 251.6 MB 2017-01-27 482.4 MB
2017-01-20 332.0 MB 2017-01-28 65.2 MB

 

According to the mobile provider the uploaded files are all labelled Windows Azure – support large files download? When calling Microsoft, the help was not any better, the lady was trying to be nice, yet not really aware of what she was talking about. Her response was: ‘we have no influence on uploads, that is the responsibility of your ISP!

So, as the Xbox is uploading, that is suddenly the worry of the victims ISP?

So far the player has only played Fallout 4 without DLC’s, Diablo 3 and the Ezio Collection (Assassins Creed), all these games were played in single player only, so there is absolutely no reason to upload at all. What is even more disturbing is that there are no checks on this part, the mobile provider data so far matches the times that the system was in use for gaming and the times the uploads were happening.

What Microsoft would not be realising, which was a former Microsoft executive referred to as Don Mattrick, who tried to be funny with: “Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity; it’s called Xbox 360“, yes and as orders were cancelled all over the place Xbox suddenly had a new boss. This all started in November 2015. Well as we seem to gather Microsoft is at it again and they haven’t been thinking this through as per usual (that is, if the facts handed to me and collected are correct), because some gamers are now facing a $120 a month additional bill, so year one for these gamers would be 12 * $120 + $450 for the console, making this device at $1850, three times more expensive than any other console. I think Microsoft forgot about mobile broadband users, they just get additional hardship. What is the issue is that all this is happening without consent and as far as the absent help from Xbox support has indicated, without the ability to switch it off. You see, there are plenty of places where broadband is an issue and those people are depending on mobile broadband and at $10 per 1 GB it adds up really fast.

So, even as Microsoft has now changed this approach (again), would customers have a case to get a full refund for console and all purchased games? Let’s not forget that Microsoft has done a 180 degrees turn on their ‘online requirements’ twice now, as well as it seems the requirement to be online to upload, which in light of single player games should result in several additional questions by parties involved.

So this is where I now stand. Awaiting two additional pieces of evidence. Should they arrive, the plan as the victim wants it is to prohibit Microsoft to continue sales of their devices until the forced uploads are deactivated, as well as reimbursements have been made. I do not think that this has any decent chance, but I will lend my support to all this. Microsoft has been playing their game via third party ‘players’ and as such there have been a few things rising to the surface. I personally believe it to be a harassment approach by Microsoft ‘to be online or else‘. I tested that with the Ezio collection. I went offline and played the game, so far after two days, after restarting the game, the achievement begotten whilst off line did not update. An issue the Xbox 360 never had and actually until recently it was not an issue (so this might be the side effect of something else). As I see it, the same day our victim suddenly say his annual Xbox one usage cost go up by a potential $1440, so we can agree that Microsoft, as per their usual self decided that profit at the expense of anyone else is preferred to a situation where the needs of the customer were respected, especially after the backlash that the first attempt had given them, again, awaiting those two pieces of evidence.

So far all contacts with Microsoft have been with the given air of ‘Well, everyone has unlimited broadband, don’t they?‘, which is nice until you get confronted with the most dangerous of obstacles, the disagreeable landlord, which in this day and age is not a good person to cross and that tends to happen more and more often, yet that is not what this fight is about. We are dealing with consent and undocumented consequences that doubles a person’s internet bill, through means that were not even essential. Off course that is not regarding the need Microsoft has to keep a record and copy of everything you are doing on your console, which by the way is well over 1000% of what multiplayer bandwidth would require, so there too are questions that need to be addressed.

From my point of view, apart from the financial damages that some players are now facing there is:

  1. How can uploads without consent be allowed?
  2. How can 2 single player games trigger a 5.8 GB upload in 15 days?
  3. The reference that the Mobile operator gave was: ‘Windows Azure – support large files download’, all uploads have that same title!
  4. Why is there no logging of uploads in the Xbox One?
  5. Which files and what exactly is being uploaded?
  6. Why did this suddenly start at midnight Friday January 13th 2017? (Which reads equally weird).

These are questions that matter, the reason is that without certain facts, there is absolutely no guarantee that this isn’t merely a hijacked router, which I have been able to prove that this is not the case to some extent.

Questions remain, you see, that part is given by the following sources: “They have clearly mentioned that their commitment to the UK is unchanged. In particular, those customers in Microsoft’s UK data centres should continue to rely on Microsoft’s significant investment plans there“, as well as “Microsoft highlighted that they have more than 5,000 highly qualified people working in fields including support, marketing, gaming, communications, cybersecurity and computer science research in the UK. Also, they have built a global centre of excellence for the development of artificial intelligence and other computing disciplines“, which we see in MS Power User (at https://mspoweruser.com/microsoft-re-affirms-its-commitment-to-the-uk-data-centre-expansion-plans-are-still-on-track/), now we need to realise that these are statements from a spokesperson, which means that that we are misrepresented without being lied to. I know, it’s a harsh world. Yet ‘5,000 highly qualified people‘, whilst seeing ‘marketing, gaming, communications, cybersecurity‘, could clearly imply that these are employees and it is not impossible that 40% of that workforce is not working on or connected to Azure. You see, the issue is when we see “Global Data Center Market Strategies, Analysis and Opportunities 2017-2023: Amazon (AWS), Microsoft, Google, and Facebook are in a Class of Their Own“, which we see in Global Newswire. The question that these parts lead to is whether it is possible that:

  1. Microsoft is trying to get an advantage on its capabilities and is trying to maximise the load of their Azure data centres, someone had the bright idea to use gamers for that and the people who tend to be useless in the technical field (read: senior management) forgot about the fact that not everyone has unlimited broadband and that some people (all over the world) pay per gigabyte and after a certain point that gets to be very expensive.
  2. Because the test requires that all (read: unknowingly) must participate, there is no option to switch uploads off, leaving us with the mess in option 1.

Now, this is for now speculative, but in light that I got this scoop and the media is ignoring gaming issues, just like the Sony Issue of 2012, so I am going ahead, so mind you, this story will be updated and there will be a part 2 when the rest of the evidence arrives, which could spark an official request against Microsoft with the Australian ACCC and the British CPS, and if Microsoft is proven not to be the evil organisation that they have been too often, than I will report that too, because just and fairness go both ways, and because it must rain on the just and unjust alike.

So stay tuned!

 

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Not seeing the hype come

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

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

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

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

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

So, what can we learn from this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A lesson learned late

We all have this, we stump our heads into a wall, some in ignorance, some through stubbornness, ideologically and the last group through determination. I am one of these four. As I bring the bad news first, I need to talk about myself. I got an extension on a test which might not be a massive one in points, but I am in a state where every point counts! Hoping to save up to 15 points on a test 44 pages long. My little big horn is a ‘Memorandum of Detailed Opinion‘. I still have 30 hours of work actual to go and I had to restart as I was turning my ‘Other Applicable Revocation Issues’ into a mesh of Titanic distraught and the deep dark feeling when you are at the top of a truly high building (like the Hancock building) and you see the street 100 flights down, that one step through the glass looks suddenly so appealing, such dread! I feel a little better, especially as I started fresh again, things are slowly adding up, connections are now coming to life. the smallest issue I had initially was a part in section 40 of the Patents Act 1990disclose the best method known to the applicant of performing the invention‘, this and a personal believe that my professor was intertwining ‘best method’ with the mathematical approach to describing Cantonese had an impact too. Yet those feelings were all between my own ears. You see, this is the first subject ever in history, where I got confronted with the limitation of my thinking. This has never happened before! We all face the music that we do not get something, but in most cases someone explains, someone aides or you find a supporting document that helps you. We all have that. No, I mean that feeling you get when your life depends on the next conversation and the one part you were not told is that everyone speaks Aramaic, that level of non-comprehension!

Yet, I also feel stronger today, because the light suddenly came on and I am starting to put it together. I took longer than I expected and if I had not been confronted with bad news last week that stress would not have stopped me from completing my assignment. Getting told you need to find another apartment tends to do that to a person whilst his exam just started. So as I finished my notes for tonight, prepping to get loads done tomorrow, I had to write this. You see, this intersects with something I read yesterday on my mobile, I believe.

That part was about Xbox boss Phil Spencer. Microsoft has always been about ideology and ignorance, so to call this part ideological ignorance is not too big a leap. Spencer stated that he was not interested in beating Sony, he was interested in gaining customers, as many as possible. In my view, his predecessors ‘messed’ it all up. I reckon not intentionally. In my view Microsoft was convinced that the TPP would have been in effect now and the steps initially made towards the XB1 would have been massively exploitative, with the law allowing them to destroy certain markets (the preowned game market for one). This all took a step back towards a streaming enterprise that did not quite make it off the floor. The 2013 promise of a 300,000 servers for gamers in one cloud. The quote is in light of the backwards compatibility claim a little hilarious: “Microsoft’s Don Mattrick stated “If you’re backwards compatible, you’re really backwards”” (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2013/05/24/spin-dryers-by-microsoft/). Even then I claimed how stupid the 500 GB thought was. Sony made the same mistake, but with the Sony version a person can update when he/she is ready, the XB1 does not allow for that. In that same article I chewed on some of the presented facts: “Their on-line system is now getting grown from the initial 15,000 servers now that Xbox 360 uses, to 300,000 servers from the moment the next Xbox is launched. It is a 2,000% growth in data collection and over 200,000% storage capacity. If foundations of business are set to return-on-investment, then ask yourself why a gaming system requires that level of growth“, a question that was never answered, but with the TPP, the streaming and the data requirements, it was about the gamer, it was how he/she could best be exploited. That was the view that my mind saw and so far I have been proven correct in almost every way. The next quote supports all this “In all honesty Microsoft Marketing did state that there will be pre-owned possibilities, yet they have not officially stated how this EXACTLY will play out, so we await clarity by Microsoft“, consider that part, if the TPP would have been in effect that part would have costed gamers dearly, so in all this, we can speculate that Don Mattrick was no more than the bearer of bad news and his career took a massive tumble. Now we get Phil Spencer and how this is about gamers. A 2 year stretch that now demands a 145 degree course adjustment. The weird thing is that if the decision makers realised their audience in the era of Xbox and Xbox 360, they should have known what gamers wanted, and adjusting that with their own view of exploitation is a misplaced view to say the least.

So as I see myself ignorant and determined, I also see Microsoft as ideologically ignorant. Ideological in their pursuit of maximising profit any way they can and ignorant to consider that gamers would take this lying down. Microsoft now set at less than 40% of what Sony has, losing the market share the 360 had grown, how stupid is that? The big issue is still that Mettrick and Spencer leave the feeling of being no more than puppets on a string, jumping to the needs of the decision makers behind the screens of Microsoft. Their strings to be cut at a moment’s notice. It is the second failing compared to Sony. Yet, in all this I must admit that Sony is likely to work in similar ways, but in a much better setting as their focus has been the gamer for 4 iterations of their console. That does account for something.

I feel that I learned my lesson late, hopefully not too late and the next two weeks will be about work 24%, study 48% and the rest is about trying to get sleep, food and an apartment. I feel strengthened as my eyes open towards the issues I could not solve for almost 10 days. I also feel better as Microsoft seems oblivious towards the gain they lost whilst they should have known better, in that respect Gamespot (who was source to most of the Microsoft information) should also have known better and as they seem to hide behind the PS4 vs XB1 console war, they have done too little regarding the investigation on the business decisions that did hurt a contending console and forced it towards a gloomier place. We can all admit that backwards compatibility will gain them momentum, yet in the end it will be about good games and yes, Microsoft has done a decent job, but with the lost field, decent will not hack it.

So I end this article with a personal message to Phil Spencer. Phil, I am not blaming you (which would be unfair), I am not having a go at you (which would be too easy), yet I will do your job for you this one instance. There is a game coming, it is nowhere near ready at present, but it is getting there. It is for PC and it has the option of becoming every bit as addictive as Minecraft currently is. So another masterpiece by an indie developer! The game is called Heat Signature as it shows massive promise. This game could propel the XB1 even further. The quirkiness and the connected options for multiplayer could be next thing people desire. The single player part is showing real promise. So instead of waiting and having to shell out another 2 billion for a game Microsoft didn’t create, so how about getting in front of a repetitive timeline for a change?

Heat Signature (heatsig.com) is able to be uniquely placed next to Elite Dangerous, Eve Online, Star Citizen and No Mans Sky. It can exist next to all of them and will be as entertaining to all those who play the other mentioned titles. I suggest that you keep your eye on @HeatSig (Twitter address) and feel free not heeding my word (I have only been wrong 4 times in the last 30 years when it comes to gaming), so I am due another failure. Yet the stats go hugely my way and as such I predict that Heat Signature, a Tom Francis production which was, as I remember it a Johnny Chiodini discovery evolve into a true contender for being the next big thing (as an indie developer title).

In all this, am I too ideological when it comes to gaming? That is a fair question and I must ask this from myself if I want to remain connected to a field I have been involved in since 1983. I believe so and games like Fallout 4 show my view to be a good one. In equal part Elite Dangerous shows that true passion for a game can last decades (something Blizzard also proved with the Diablo series) and in all this Ubisoft squandered it and Microsoft rejected their view only to get bitten on their sitting area really hard. The future belongs to the believers, because faith has always been the most pure and natural driving force. It got me my law degree it got me to the final stage of my MIP and it can get anyone to their place of achievement. Greed is never an achievement! Will Microsoft learn from their mistakes? That remains dubious because the puppeteers behind the screens remain an unknown. I do believe that illuminating them could shed light on the problem and truly propel the world of gamers forward as the onslaught of counterproductive acts end up getting terminated with extreme prejudice. EA has 7 months left to learn their lesson and not fall into the traps with Mass Effect Andromeda, traps that Ubisoft seems to be unable to avoid. Still, if they are unable to do that, John Oliver will be able to have a little fun here too.

 

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Getting back on the horse

Finally a blog article from me that is for the most all about my view of gaming  (because there is nothing interesting about reading stories regarding Varoufakis being a sore loser in the Guardian).

We all have these moments where we go shopping, whilst there are no funds available. A situation I have been very familiar with, yet we still go browsing in many places to see whether there is something to work towards. This certainly describes my case and as I found out soon thereafter, I got myself into a mingled world of facts and none facts a lot more than I bargained for. So what started this?

I’ll be honest, ever since the release of Elite: Dangerous I have been living on the edge of my previous addiction. It is one of the most loved games I had ever played. I still think back with utter fondness playing this game on the CBM-64. Wireframe and low resolution were at the core of a game that offered such fun, its challenge and entertainment that left its mark on me ever since. I played the remake on the Amiga somewhere in the 90’s, but the original was still the soul breaker for me. With David Braben making the ‘now’ version for today’s PC environment and by adding not just a galactic map, but by almost mapping the ENTIRE galaxy, this game is now an entirely new revelation and because Sean Murray keeps on not giving a release date for his upcoming masterpiece No Man’s sky, my desire to play Elite: Dangerous increases. It is however not that simple, my PC (which still works excellently) is now 9 years old, so it cannot deal with today’s gaming. As I stated, there is no way to afford a new PC at present, which is why I kept on browsing.

Now we get to the issue: The amount of gaming systems out there appear to be a joke! I lost two days getting back into the field I had high expertise in, but as I moved to consoles (as keeping up with gaming PC’s became way too expensive, even when I had my good income), the market moved on (as it would) and I learned that changes had been many. Now, for the most I understand it all, but the diversity to learn what is needed to know is one that a non-hardware savvy person, gamer or not, is one that could boggle the mind.

It took me two days to get back onto the level of knowledge I once had. Even now, there are still diminishing gaps.

So, why is all this an issue?

Well, even though the graphics card was always an issue, in my days I moved from a Diamond Viper (which was top of the market in 1998) to a NVIDIA GeForce 6800 card (in 2005), which was again pretty high up (and not cheap), at this point I could game pretty much anything, I had the top of the range SoundBlaster and a good screen and I could game and compute my life away behind my desktop.

Now gaming has changed. For one, it is no longer really about sound cards, the system board has all it needs for gamers, so we are left with the proper processor, the right amount of memory and the graphics card. This is where the issue starts. The diversity of graphic cards is now a jungle, how can any parent choose the right system for their kid, or for that matter, how can any newbie gamer select the best card for their needs?

I can tell you right now that many shops are truly lacking in knowledge there. When you go to online places (which is an initial MUST), you get a boatload of options too. System prices range from 999 to 4299, so where is the best choice? In the middle or at the far end? Questions that many do not have and others state: ‘the more expensive the better’ (which is a truth to some degree). You see, at some point I decided to stay one hardware iteration behind, so that I could game at a very high level, yet needing a decently less amount of money. That truth in gaming remains to be an almost absolute truth. There is a new property in play, one that was never a real issue even 5 years is now a massive part, it is about the noise level of the graphics card as some of those bad boys make noise when they are working, which is not that dissimilar an issue from the Xbox 360 DVD drive and fan noise. So getting a quiet system is worth it. A lesser item is the power consumption of such a card, which at maximum uses as much energy as two PS4 systems in full gaming mode and at the price of $999 (just for a graphics card), that bad boy costs the same as two PlayStation 4 systems. So is gaming on the PC worth it?

That is the question you must ask yourself, especially considering that gaming will take another bang in hardware in 3-4 years, even as you might only need to replace the graphics card, you see a devaluation of 25% a year. That is the part many people are not always considering, which fair is enough. Now, the truth is that if you see some games like Skyrim, where some mods were made to truly blast the hell out of the word pretty, as an RPG fan, I would fold like a bad poker player at the mere sight of the created graphics, yet, I never felt that Skyrim was anything less than amazing on a console, and I knew that the PC was a lot better.

Fortunately for me Elite: Dangerous does not require the most massive card, so that system is a lot less unaffordable than any new system, but unaffordable it remains, so what is this about? First of all, people need to really take a look at what they are willing to afford online before walking into a computer shop. Places like http://www.pccasegear.com and http://www.mwave.com.au/ (for Australian consumers) are good places to take a first look. When you see the prices you are in for (that is before you add the keyboard, mouse and display), you need to see what the graphical needs will be, and moreover, how some games perform. In this I relied on http://www.tomshardware.com/  in the past and it is still around. It is here where we would read “In the graph, MSI’s card is listed at 34 decibels. This is done to represent just how quiet the Twin Frozr V solution really is. The meter wouldn’t register a reading two inches from the rear panel, even when the fans started up“, that is indeed one part that matters, another part is frame-rate, so how smooth is the game, this site gives us that too, although one setback is that Tom does not seem to test all resolutions whilst the new gamers all want 1440p and a few now demand 4K resolution performance graphs, but the new upcoming cards will likely show that too.

There are other sites that give good independent review of cards, just be willing to spend an hour looking at the different places before you go shopping, I have tried a few conversations out there and I can tell you now that these places (read: shops) are often devoid of true inside knowledge on cards, finding one gamer amongst that lot is a treasure, but also a hindrance, as you might find yourself overspending a bit sooner and a little more than you expected.

In all this, PC gaming will remain and there is no reason why it should not, but in this day and age that part is too often forgotten, and electricity, especially in the UK does not come cheap. The amount of gamers not considering their electricity bill is growing on a daily basis.

For example, 9.429p per 1kWh, 600W PSU means 0.094 x 0.6 x 24 = £1.35 per day, meaning that your gaming PC (if you keep it on all day) will cost you £495 a year alone. The Australian example is harder as energy suppliers seem to REFUSE to give out clear pricing, only when they know all your facts will they give you any information, making them slightly less reputable than the ice dealers in Kings Cross. So if we go by the same system and a 20c per KwH, we get: 0.2 x 0.6 x 24 = $2.88, which amounts to $1042 a year on power to the gaming system alone.

You might think that this is trivial, but in this day and age, in these moments, you better consider shutting down your PC. A friend of mine got scared as he got his quarterly bill, he now shuts down the computer properly. It is one of the running costs of gaming that people forget as they think it does not matter, and when you are renting in a university dorm it might not, but when you work, you are not working to be the bitch of Energy Australia, or EDF Energy for that matter, are you? At least UK power (www.ukpower.co.uk) gave me some decent prices to work with.

How does this relate?

Getting back on the horse is a term we see ourselves confronted with, because the term ‘is the juice worth the squeeze’ is becoming a predominant question in gaming, not just in PC gaming, the fact that several high profile cases have changed the industry is linked to all this. When we see Assassins Creed: Unity, with needing gigabytes in patches, where a game almost a year old is still receiving patches (number 5 was released 3 days ago). The gamer’s view of quality demand and the industry of lacking the ability to meet even the minimal requirement here is also affecting the choice of gaming system. Why spend $4200 on a system that will require patching for a year? And that game is not alone. Arkham knight is now treading that same line, an industry inherently unable to even meet basic expectations. And even though Witcher 3 exceeded expectations wildly, the new patch is massive at 7Gb and as Forbes is informing us (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2015/07/18/theres-a-problem-with-the-witcher-3s-new-patch/), where we see “the new patch means that The Witcher 3 doesn’t perform as well on either the Xbox One or the PS4, dipping down to 20 FPS fairly consistently in some of the game’s busier locales” gives clear indication that PC gaming is however much desired a path that is riddled with issues at a price so much higher than the console world.

So even if it were possible for me to get back on that horse, I have serious doubts whether the juice will be worth the squeeze, because at $4200 ($1999 is a more realistic choice in decent gaming PC’s) I would demand a decent level of perfection in gaming and even though the hardware meets it, it seems more and more clear that the industry is no longer able to meet these expectations, so even though I will require a PC at some point, my old one still (thankfully) suffices for non-gaming purposes and gaming on a PC is no longer truly surpassing the joy of a console.

Many will not agree with me on the latter and that is just fine, some will get great gaming on their PC when it comes down to World of Warcraft and League of Legends, yet when we consider the following headlines ‘Battlefield 4 – what can we expect from the summer patch?‘ (July 10th 2015), ‘Batman: Arkham Knight PC Version Fixes Not Coming Until Fall‘ (July 16th 2015), ‘The Huge Witcher 3 Patch Is Rolling Out Over The Next 24 Hours‘ (July 17th 2015) and the least said about ‘F1 2015 Errors, Crashes, Bugs, Performance, Low FPS, and Fixes‘ the better, with 2 patches within a week (including a day 1 patch) and as stated “PC community still seemed to struggle to get a decent gameplay experience” the question is not just about the massive cost of hardware, the issue becomes, if this industry does not up its game by a lot real fast, will there still be a long term future for these less affordable gaming PC’s?

 

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