Something, Something Game News – Dragon Age 4: Multiplayer is dead. Long live the single-player RPG

Standard

According an insider report from Bloomberg, (which fails to name sources, and doesn’t seem to understand what “games-as-a-service” are, so take with a few grains of salt) Dragon Age 4 is being retooled as a single-player only RPG.

This apparently comes as a result of both the success of Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order–an exclusively single-player title, which EA even admitted at the time was more successful than they expected–and the failure of Anthem, which recently had previous plans to revamp many of its problems, cancelled.

Is EA learning from past mistakes?

It’s hard to say. The Anthem NEXT cancellation is disappointing, though, hardly surprising. But the apparent renewed interest in single-player titles is a good thing, as modern “games-as-a-service” tend to come across more exploitative than fun. I think we can agree the most recent travesty; the Square Enix developed, Marvel’s Avengers game was an absolute abomination, and should serve as an example of what not to do with a popular IP.

This also comes as a quite a turnaround from the previous (2019) insider description of the game as, “Anthem with dragons,” asserting the game would have a heavy multiplayer focus. This was supposedly a significant reason for departure of long-time BioWare legend, Mike Laidlaw in 2017.

So… maybe?

Disney killed Marvel Heroes to make a game that has fewer players than Counter-Strike 1.6



We can only hope a single-player Dragon Age 4 won’t include a cash shop or paid loot-boxes, but that’s probably a bit too optimistic for an EA publish.

/gameon

Something Something Game News – Anthem 2.0 is officially cancelled

Standard

In an official update from BioWare, the 2019 announced re-work of Anthem, dubbed Anthem NEXT, was cancelled.

Christian Dailey, the game’s Executive Producer, says the decision comes at the heels of expanded effort to focus more on upcoming Mass Effect and Dragon Age titles, while reinforcing continued work on Star Wars: The Old Republic.

As someone who was looking forward to this, I’m personally pretty disappointed. I guess we can’t always see the games we’d like to be good, get the No Man’s Sky comeback treatment it deserved. Sadly, BioWare has been bleeding talent over the last few years, and are hard to recognize in modern days.

With the upcoming release of the Mass Effect trilogy remaster, and the announced 5th game of the series, we can only hope that BioWare is able to deliver on bringing back the quality they were renowned for in the past.

/gameon

Game Review – Hollow Knight: A Love Letter

Standard

Hollow Knight is a perfect game.

I know, a bit grandios to begin a review of a game with such a definitive and superlative statement, but I truly believe there is no other way to describe this title.

So hear me out.

Let’s start with the gameplay:

Smooth, precise and varied. Challenging, without being punishing. Exciting, but allows you to breathe. The pacing is well mannered and accessible. Rarely does it feel like the game is being unfair, even when you fail more than once.

Attacks feel weighted, even while playing as a tiny character. A character identified as small, not only by the environment, but by the NPCs themselves. Yet, you are strong, and feel as such. Your character is an agile warrior, and you are constantly reminded with a clever progression of mobility upgrades and swift attacks, but you don’t become an overpowered God to early game monsters, either. Anything can kill you, and you are always required to play the dance of mechanics. There is something satisfying in this, as predecessors like Dark Souls have shown.

Dance, monkey.

While there is certainly souls/metroidvania inspiration in this game, I hesitate to compare it too much, as it is so very able to stand on its own legs. While some mechanics may be lifted, others are simply things it has in common. Such as the immaculate and deliberate level design. Rewarding exploration and discovery. Non-linear storytelling and unguided pathfinding. The challenging gameplay and varied bosses, requiring you to learn mechanics. There are a number of things which have a bit of a souls-like/metroidvania feel, and the fact that you have to go “get” your body after dying in order to reclaim some of your life does have some parallels for sure.

But all of those things contribute, and never feel reused or stolen. Namely, because the game’s world itself is unique and fascinating.

I want to preface this next part with the fact that I don’t like bugs. Spiders creep me out, and even just the idea of visiting Australia gives me anxiety because of how huge some of the bugs are. Hell, I’ve never even seen Antz or A Bugs Life, (and I am the appropriate age to have seen them) because that’s how not interested I am in bugs.

It is kind of adorable.


So when I say that this marvelous little bug world really drew me in, I want you to understand that I otherwise I have no interest in entomology or even just having bugs near me. It is easily the most immersive 2D game world ever designed, in my opinion. Character design is diverse and creative. Monsters are varied and curious, not always just typical “bad guys.” Boss fights are glorious and reward you in unexpected ways. Sometimes you meet a new friend. Sometimes you earn the respect of warrior-leaders. Sometimes you’re just learning something new.

Dung Defender is an incredible name, and you wish you thought of it.


The lore is also deep, while never spoon-fed. You have to read, converse and make decisions to unravel the mysterious world around you. There are some aspects debated to this day, such as the result of spirits being hit by the Dream Nail–an important weapon given to you, which gains power upon striking lingering ghosts–and whether or not it is good or bad for the spirits, as many you find are innocents and kind souls. This is the kind of thing which makes great games stand the test of time. Hollow Knight is a game worth pondering over, while you play it.

You want lore? We got lore for days.


I suppose I can admit to some bias when it comes to this kind of game. I do love metroidvanias, and I consider Super Metroid to be one of the greatest games of all time, without question. I like sidescrollers, and I like platformers, and Hollow Knight is most certainly inspired by some of the classics which guided the early game industry as we know it. It doesn’t hold back on platforming, either, and even has some challenging spots which require fairly precise wall-jumping. I wouldn’t call it as punishing as say, Super Meat Boy, or Celeste, however, and much of the truly heavy platforming is relegated to side areas which are not mandatory to progressing the game.

Mostly I just love existing in this little bug world, which to me is the sign of a truly great game. I remember when I was young, playing Ocarina of Time on my N64, I’d just ride on my horse around the open world for hours. Just ride. I can’t name too many games where I just want to spend time in the world without any specific intent to accomplish anything, and Hollow Knight is one where I’ve done circles around the map, just to see if there are any new undiscovered nooks and crannies.

Lots of goodies to find, too.


It’s safe to say I’m pretty excited for the follow-up, Silksong to release (hopefully) this year. As such, I’d really like to point out the wonderful developer of this franchise, Team Cherry. I own this game on both Steam and Switch, have pumped more than 60 hours into both versions, and would say that the performance is indistinguishable on both. It always runs at a steady 60fps, and I have never experienced so much as an obvious frame drop, glitch, or even localization error. It runs as smoothly on a technically hand-held console as it does on my brand new gaming PC with an overclocked i7 and 3080.

Part of this is due to the fact that they don’t give release dates until the game is close to finished. Which is easier for a smaller team, for sure. I followed their Switch development cycle fairly closely, and while they’d give updates every few months, they’d continually say they weren’t comfortable giving a release date until they were sure it was polished enough to do so. The same methodology has continued with Silksong. I believe this is the correct way to publicly develop a game. Internal goals are fine, but as soon as you tell the public a date, you create expectations, and we have a Cyberpunk, or No Man’s Sky situation where a game is delayed several times and still released unfinished. The only expectation we should have is that a game be finished. The date is irrelevant if it’s unachievable. (Expect an article about the fallacy of setting expectations via release dates sometime in the near future)

TBA until it’s done. As it should be.


I could probably write another several hundred words about all of the things that make this game great, but I feel like I may have made my point to the uninitiated, and am just preaching to the choir when it comes to the existing fans, so I will leave you with this:

Hollow Knight is a perfect example of why this is the era of indie games. Big publishers continue to have their blunders by either misreading the market, or releasing unfinished games, while spectacularly good indie titles are coming from tiny studios with big hearts, and a passion for what they’re making. No amount of Ray-Traced realism, and hi-res, next-gen graphics can replace that in my gaming collection.

Modern indie masterpieces like Hollow Knight are a glorious reminder that games are made by artists; and there’s a big difference between corporate-designed pop music, and an orchestral symphony.

/gameon

Game Review – Warhammer 40K: Dakka Squadron: The Flyboyz are back in town

Standard
Yes, I’ve started recording gameplay, again. Maybe I get more than 11 views on this one!


A year or two ago I caught wind of a “Warhammer 40,000 Orks flight sim” in development. Naturally, my interest was piqued, being a fan of the universe in most of its aspects, having even manned and painted a 2500 point Imperial Guard tabletop army. I’m also a fan of flight sims and arcade shooters, so it’s right up my alley. Plus, we have another solid example of what makes the Warhammer universe so interesting in the first place: no shortage of fun new ideas.

While Games Workshop has certainly had its share of missteps over the years, one of the things I’ve always appreciated is their willingness to give their IP to small developers, at least more recently, anyway. (I’m not going to get into Warhammer vs. Warcraft in this article, but give it a search if you don’t know what I’m talking about and would like to). The mega-publishers like Activision and EA never want to leave their own formulas, and so we get Star Wars Battlefront 1 and 2 as sequels to games with literally the exact same name, which could have actually made 10x more money if they were simply remasters of the original games instead of loot-box-laden EA suckfests. But I digress…

Image result for star wars battlefront 2 copies on shelves
We really should never forget that EA was unable to sell a brand new Star Wars game at Christmas.


So what is Warhammer 40K: Dakka Squadron?

It’s a fun, arcade-y, shoot-em-up with an emphasis on Ork silliness, and it strikes that chord well.

The voice-overs are goofy and on brand. The Ork visual style is well utilized. Everything looks slapped together, and made to blow things up, and they do. Even the Ork aesthetic philosophy of adding modifiers through pure faith are present. So your red paint job does in fact make your plane go faster.

The graphics are not bad, but fairly low polygon to work across many platforms. It did released on mobile, after all. So you can find it on Android, and iOS, as well as Steam. I won’t be talking about gameplay on mobile, however, since I am a fully refreshed member of the #pcmasterrace with a brand new RTX 3080 and all. So I am reviewing exclusively the Steam released, “Flyboyz Edition.”

Your colour choices are almost as important as they are in the tabletop game.


The gameplay is simple. Maybe a little too simple. There is definitely no “sim” to be found here. You have very little control over your roll orientation, and you do little more than Star Fox style spins when you press A or D. This can be a bit disorienting, as your plane will make its own decision to right itself if you do a loop. They definitely encourage you to use set turn-back maneuvers (a single button press will reverse your direction) rather than “real” fancy flying techniques. Which is fair, because like I said, there’s no “sim” here, and therefore, no real physics or lift or anything like that going on.

Go fast. Shoot stuff.


Despite the lack of realism, it’s still a lot of fun. One of your primary attacks against other fighters is simply ramming them when you are close enough. I can’t name too many games in the genre which actually encourage mid-air collisions. The action is fast-paced, and the missions don’t expect more than 10-15 minutes of work for each. Blow up a bunch of stuff, get some upgrades, move on to the next fight. The variety of weapons and gameplay are more or less what you’d expect from this Orks themed flying game. You have nimble fighters, and bulky Bommas with a variety of tools, guns, rockets and Boom Bombs to flatten everything in your path.

Lots of stuff to unlock and blow things up with.


The game isn’t without some obvious problems, however. While I haven’t experienced this particular issue as an English language player, I’ve read about a number of localization issues with other languages which mostly sound like the result of laziness. Maybe they never hired anyone and just used Google translate. A smart idea would be to ask for community localization efforts, though, still rather equally lazy.

The AI of enemy units is just straight up awful, as well. You will consistently see them bumping into walls and making very little effort to correct themselves. Since it’s clearly meant as a casual shooter, I wouldn’t say they need a challenge boost by much, but it would be nice just for immersion sake if the mobs had better pathing, considering the arenas are pretty small. Which is my other major gripe: the arena size boundaries are tight. Very tight. They could perhaps loosen up the ceiling a bit, just to make diving and bombing less cramped.

Not sure “AI” is even the phrase I’d use. The I seems to be missing.


Putting those issues aside, it is still a lot of fun, and has a breezy price point around $20 on Steam. If I had to rank it as it is, I’d give it a solid 7, with room for improvement. It could be a 7.5 or an 8 with localization and AI fixes, along with some minor gameplay polish.

If you’re looking for some fast 40K aerial action with a clever Ork theme and few expectations from the player other than having fun, this might be what you’re looking for.

/waaagh

P.S. I died so many times making this review.

Game Review – Valheim is Wurm Online on easy mode: and that’s a good thing

Standard

Wait, you’ve never heard of Wurm Online?? Shame on you.

You may be more familiar with its moddable offline-ish baby, Wurm Unlimited, which is available on Steam. It’s a standalone version of the MMO, giving players freedom to manipulate the game client and host private servers.

So what is Wurm, and what does it have to do with this early access Viking game that everyone keeps comparing to Minecraft and Rust? A lot, actually.

It all started with a game studio called Mojang Specifications AB, co-founded by the one and only Notch. Oh, the guy who who made Minecraft, you mean? Yeah, that guy.

Microsoft/Mojang has since removed all mention of Notch/Persson from Minecraft

Wurm Online was the brainchild of then colleagues, Rofl Janssen and Markus Persson. It can only be described as a blend of the classic MMORPGs like EverQuest and Ultima Online, and a clear technical predecessor to the formula we recognize from Minecraft. The landscape is fully shapeable, and ever changing. Trees grow back, and eventually take over unclaimed land. Monsters roam randomly around the map, freely challenging anything and anyone in their path. Crafting is mind-bendingly complex, and allows you to build a variety of tools, weapons, vehicles and structures out of many different materials with curious and even creative results. You can sail vast bodies of hostile waters, and navigate between continents. It might even have the most interesting, and dynamic skybox ever made, displaying evolving weather patterns, including wind, rain, snow, storms, rainbows, as well as an elaborate star map with a constant cycle of celestial bodies and even occasional eclipses. Both world and sky are truly open.

Snow rainbow? S’no problem.


All that said, it’s also the heaviest grind of any game I’ve ever played. Putting up a building requires an extraordinary amount of time and effort involving cutting down swaths of forest, and digging up many actual boatloads of clay, iron, stone and whatever other building materials you can think up. It’s an immense timesink just to feel like you’ve made any progress. There is a sense of accomplishment from putting in so much work, but it’s hard to justify the amount of time it takes just to get resources.

The combat is also… wonky, and dated. It has a lot of the classics of RPGs like swordplay, bows, magic, etc, but it’s not exactly “action” based. It’s almost like real-time turn-based, if that makes any sense. It feels more like you’re rolling dice than swinging a sword.

Nothing says “exciting combat” like clicking through menus and pointing directional arrows.


So again, wtf does any of this have to do with Valheim? Well, it has most of those things I described, but without the ruinous grind. Building is easy, and fun. Combat is exciting and satisfying. It’s so many of the things that made Wurm interesting, but better.

It has a marvelous and beautiful skybox, with dynamic weather patterns and great wind effects. It has an easily moldable landscape, allowing you to sculpt the terrain to your will and build to your heart’s content. The sailing is spectacular, challenging, dangerous, and an absolute adventure all on its own. Combat is simple, yet fluid and rewards skill without overtly punishing casual players. There is an endless spree of dungeons, dangerous monster spawns, and even a story to follow if you so wish.

Dungeon diving with friends? Check.


Although, if you don’t wish, you don’t have to. You can just have fun with your friends, trying not to die to falling trees and screaming boars. Yes, just falling trees are dangerous. Hell, you can even sail off the edge of the world. When in Norse Mythology, do as the Nords.

…and I feel fine.


Many of these things seem eerily similar to what Wurm was trying to accomplish when development started nearly two decades ago, but Valheim did the thing Wurm couldn’t do: make it fun and accessible. Which I suppose is also where Mojang was able to succeed with Minecraft.

While it’s certainly easy to compare Valheim to Minecraft for its sprawling open world and ability to win hearts so easily, it takes existing in your little Viking world to the next levelit’s a brilliantly refreshed formula in a genre that has been beaten into the ground. Minecraft was a unique revelation when it gained popularity. By comparison, Valheim is like a diamond standing out in a sea of broken glass.

Realistic waves, wind and weather physics, while being hunted by giant sea monsters? Check.


Let me be clear: I am beyond bored with “survival” games. I can’t stay interested in games like The Forest, or Rust, or Ark, or Conan Exiles, or 7 Days to Die, or Terraria, or, or, or… unless I have peers pressuring me to play with them. While it’s a great co-op experience, I can play Valheim solo and do so confidently, without feeling like the constant monitoring of food and other resources is just an arbitrary chorewhich often ruins experience for me in other games.

I think that’s what makes the game so compelling in the first place. It’s not really doing anything new at all. It’s so easy to compare it to a lot of other popular titles. I like to be a pedantic hipster relating to Wurm instead of Minecraft, but there’s no question that it borrows from more popular and similar games. Yet, it still stands out. Even with chunky pixel art graphics, it has a gorgeous aesthetic, and an extraordinarily immersive environment. Even with familiar cooking and crafting progression, it still feels fresh and creative. Even with simple combat mechanics, it’s still fun and engaging.

Giant deer that shoots lightning? Check.


It’s hard to describe how well this game rides the line between fresh and familiar.

Big studios wish they could crack the secret to selling a million copies of a new IP that isn’t pushing the boundaries of game design itself like Death Stranding, or reaching out to the broadest of demographics like Among Us.

Valheim is a beautiful reminder that a game doesn’t need brutal originality to feel fresh, inviting and completely new.

/gameon

P.S. Can someone tell me why people compare it to Dark Souls? I don’t see it.

Something, Something Game News – Pokemon Go: Nintendo’s guide to making money

Standard
pokemonlegs

Welcome to the world of the real.

 

It’s no secret that Pokemon Go has become an earth-shattering success in an absurdly short amount of time. The game was released on July 6th — just one week ago, and it has an estimated 15 million downloads and counting. That’s over 2m a day, and it would be a fair estimate to suggest it will hit 20m by the weekend. It’s already seeing more use than mainstream social media apps like Twitter and Facebook, as well as other top game installs like CandyCrush and Slithr.io, with not only more total active users, but also longer time spent using the app. In just 7 days, it has become the biggest mobile game in history.

pokemonvs-tinder

To be fair, you really don't want to "catch" anything from Tinder.

 

From the rampant reports of server problems and security concerns, it’s safe to say that the relatively small-time developer (not for long), Niantic wasn’t ready for the kind of reception it has received. Even in countries where you can’t even officially download the app from the Play, or iOS store, people are still managing to get their hands on installers and running them anyway.

But can you really blame Niantic? I mean, their previous works weren’t exactly unsuccessful, but they were little more than a creative indie team with an interesting geocaching game not entirely unfamiliar next to their Pokemon themed successor (in fact, some clever fellow has figured out how to use it to find Pokemon). Maybe Nintendo weren’t entirely prepared, either. With lackluster sales of the Wii U, it seemed all but likely that Nintendo may be headed towards leaving the hardware business altogether. The dynasty has seen better days and maybe it was little more than an experiment to see if their interests in AR could really pay off.

pokemongym
Chicks love badges.

Well, we were ready, weren’t we?

As if a flood washed over all of popular media, suddenly everything Pokemon. Perhaps helping as an escape from recent events… well, everywhere it seems… ages ranging from, hell, everyone. Kids to old folks. Hardcore fans of the series, and people who’d never heard of it before.

PTSD afflicted veterans who’d struggled to leave the house…

pokemonvet

Cops hanging out with teenagers…

copsnteens

And a rainbow of others across so many spectrum. It’s hard to name a demographic that isn’t running around in the streets being more social than one could have imagined while having their faces buried in their phones. It’s fucking incredible. I dare anyone to suggest otherwise.

pokemonagora

pokemonhealth<3

It’s probably a fair assumption that Nintendo is pretty excited about it, too, considering it’s raised their company’s value by well over $10 billion in the past week, and is raking in hard cash at a rate of $1.6 million per day, just on iPhones alone. Worldwide Android data isn’t in yet, but a safe estimate wouldn’t be much shy of 10 million or more. With a dominant user base expected to rise, it’s likely that those numbers will continue their upward trend. For how long, it’s hard to say. At the very least, if Nintendo and Niantic are wise, they will ride this tidal wave and continue to to develop and improve the app with features and content. There’s no denying they have a gem here, and the best thing they can do is exploit it more than a diamond mine in Africa.

pokemonbroncos

Let the product placement begin...

Just over 30 years after the NES was born, Nintendo has once AGAIN flipped a whole industry upside down. It doesn’t take a psychic-type (ha) to predict there will be a tsunami of clones and imitators. Competitors certainly aren’t about to ignore the rampant success, and you can already see every other kind of business jumping on the bandwagon just to get a taste of that Pokemon money.
Will this instantaneous phenomenon conjure a brighter future for Nintendo? Perhaps. It might be a bit early to say, but it would be foolish to withhold from the grandfather of gaming the benefit of the doubt. Nintendo has never been shy at taking a leap with a new idea, and it’s one of their best qualities. Gaming as we know it just wouldn’t be the same, and it’s on the precipice of change yet again, thanks to the one company who has never been afraid to be the outlier, and will continue to fill the treasured childhood memories of generations to come.

/gameon

pokemon-pride-go-646x367

Stay safe, trainers. ;)

Something, Something Game News – Stop being impressed by 1st Gen VR

Standard
3dpron
You know what they say, porn has driven the progress of all media. (Really)

Since the launch of the Vive and the Rift, I can’t help but be completely, and utterly unimpressed by the first generation of VR titles. I keep hearing words like “revolutionary” and “immersive” but most of the apps I’ve seen so far are either gimmicky, overly simple non-games, or virtual desktops which merely allow you to look at a screen or screens while sitting in a blandly textured environment. If this is what’s going to pass for quality immersion, we might as well cancel any progress we’re making towards Total Recall or The Matrix-like detail: all we needed was a fucking virtual couch.

lolvr
Check it out, bro! I'm sitting on a couch while I'm sitting on a couch!

Seriously. Take off the $600 goggles and think clearly for a second about the quality of these titles: If they weren’t VR games, would they be any good? It’s a question I’ve posed since the inception of this new gear, and every time I ask it of myself, the resounding answer is always, “Dear fuck, no.”

let’s start with the number one most obvious problem with many of these new apps:

vrreq
Better hope this VR thing isn't just a fad, then...

If a PC game requires exclusive hardware to run, it is automatically breaking the cardinal rule of PC gaming: everyone plays.

You think League of Legends and Counter-Strike:GO are the most played games in the world because they caters only to the snobby #PCmasterrace crowd? (Of which I often declare myself a member, but that’s not the point) No. You can play these titles on a toaster. Smart developers make games which can run on a wide variety of hardware.

Next, let’s talk about how many of these VR exclusive titles aren’t even games.

It must be a good VR game! VR is in the title!

It’s mostly environmental emulators, and virtual desktops which all do the same thing. Is it possible to die from yawning? A game where you drift about waving at things and counting them is not a game worth buying, but they sell it to you as one because it’s all, OOH! LOOK IT’S IN 3D CUZ YOU’RE WEARING FACE SCREENS! They all just feel like lazy attempts to quickly enter a burgeoning market. This is not even remotely what we should be expecting. Pokemon Snap was more interesting than this, and it still didn’t need awkward face screens.

Even a game like Star Citizen, which is definitely designed as an exclusive PC game for those who are more inclined to use high end hardware… still has no exclusive hardware. It won’t run very well on slower computers, but having a slow computer doesn’t exempt you from installing it. You may need a better computer to play it, but you won’t need an entirely new and separate piece of technology to do so. See the difference?

A VR game that can’t be played not in VR, and doesn’t have anything which requires VR (like room mapping mechanics) is a game which should not only not exist, but should be shunned from the likes of the Steam store. (I know, that sentence was just as painful to write). Make an immersive game, then build VR into it. Don’t pigeonhole your potential audience just to be the first through the door with a new gimmick. What if not as many people are rushing out to buy headsets as you thought? You’ve now forfeited a major share of your own market potential. It isn’t just bad development, it’s bad business. There are far more games out there right now which could lend themselves to VR better than many of the new VR exclusives popping up left and right.

Seriously. Why does this require VR hardware? Why don't I ever have hands?

Take Elite Dangerous for example. It was one of the most played games in the earlier testing phases of the Rift (and likely still is) because it is a visceral, first person game with immersive qualities. It lends itself perfectly to a VR experience, yet doesn’t require face screens. It looks good, feels good, sounds good and does immersion well without pandering to gimmicks. VR fits naturally into a game like this because the game itself is immersive.

So that’s it. Make an immersive game. Implement VR. In that order. If you do it the other way around, you are just ruining market expectations for everyone else. At the price of entry, you’re target audience is people like me who are willing to spend a little extra on their hardware. It doesn’t matter how you price the game, because they had to buy that hardware first. I feel like no consideration is made for that. Your cheap, rushed “game” doesn’t sit right on exclusive, expensive hardware.

Plus, here’s another thing: I already have multiple screens in front of me. I don’t need a $600 device to emulate those screens. If I get a VR headset it’s because I want to feel like I’m IN THE GAME. It could be way more than just a pricey gimmick if developers would hold up on trying to be the first across the line.

/gameon

south-park-oculus-rift-episode
Obligatory South Park reference.

Something, Something Game News – Pay2Mod: Why Steam’s paid workshop failed so hard so quickly

Standard
prison02Off with their heads!

Over the past few days, the PC gaming community has been up in arms over the new paid modding system Valve implemented into its flagship Steam Community Workshop. Almost as quickly as it arrived, it was shunned and then shuttered only days later. It’s a rare occasion for Valve to blunder so violently in such a short time, however I will give them credit for responding as quickly as they did. So what happened?

The majority of the backlash started with one mod which was removed within hours of the paid program’s launch. The controversy began due to the mod’s creator having used assets from another mod by another creator. As should be expected, using another’s content to get paid is rather frowned upon.

permissiontomakemoneyWell that escalated quickly.

However, Steam Workshop was never set up to have the kind of regulation you might expect from a paying service. The mod mentioned above wasn’t even removed by Steam, but by the developer for having received so much negative press. Yet, with Valve offering paid options for modders, not only does it infringe on some of the communities’ ideologies, but potentially creates an atmosphere where mods might become exclusive to Steam due to a developer’s interest in profits. The proprietor of the Nexus modding community Robin Scott weighed in on Reddit asking:

“Can you make a pledge that Valve are going to do everything to prevent, and never allow, the “DRMification” of modding, either by Valve or developers using Steam’s tools, and prevent the concept of mods ONLY being allowed to be uploaded to Steam Workshop and no where else, like ModDB, Nexus, etc.?”

It’s fair question considering what a mod actually is: a contribution to an already finished product. It’s kinda like if you took a painting, added your own character to it, then asked to be paid for your work. While you may have legitimately improved upon the artwork, and perhaps put in nearly as many hours as the original artist, the fact remains that it was never yours to begin with. So the question stands: does a modder deserve to be paid at all?

10845818_10155497807325603_7012942427859232575_o"I call it: 'Dog Bridge' by Monet and Carol. Isn't it better?!"

It’s a tricky question. While the point still remains that mods are not original contributions, there’s no arguing that some mods have evolved into highly successful standalone games on their own merit. DayZ for example, was a mod to the ARMA 2 engine by a single developer (who did happen to work for Bohemia Interactive before it was appropriated by them, however), and is now one of the highest selling games on PC. Counter-Strike and Team Fortress Classic began as mere mods to the Half Life engine as well, and have also gone on to become two of the most highly celebrated and influential games in the industry. Not to mention the original DOTA having been a Warcraft 3 mod.

Successful mod developers have come forward, unsurprisingly, in favour of the paid system. Garry’s Mod creator Garry Newman suggests that the market would balance itself, rewarding quality over quantity. He is convinced that people won’t pay for unimpressive mods, while the better ones will shine through and receive the funding they deserve. Shawn Snelling, a prominent modder and map designer for CS:GO also believes modders should be compensated for their time.

exposureA lovely satire piece from The Beaverton.

I just want to be clear in my position that I do not disagree with their sentiment. Of course hard-working modders deserve compensation, and many of them have already been rewarded. Again, some of the most successful titles we know today began as mods, and wouldn’t be as such if not for their developers having made the decision to monetize their efforts. But mods like DayZ didn’t become paid, standalone versions overnight. The decision to sell was almost always after they had become celebrated, and provided enough content to be sold as complete games. Even still, the original DayZ mod for ARMA 2 can be had entirely for free.

The issue here was strictly implementation.

With almost no warning or advisement from the community, Valve issued an option to allow the content creators to decided whether or not their work had value, when point of fact, it should have been at the discretion of the community itself. Right out of the gate, there were already mods with little effort done by the developer, and/or stolen assets, wrongly asking for payment with absolutely no regulation nor communication from Steam. Anyone could put in as little effort as they liked, and still demand payment just for you to download it. As one can imagine, this kind of honour system doesn’t work on the internet without oversight. “Protest mods” even appeared, some asking for $hundreds to provide a single, worthless asset, just to prove how ridiculous the new system was.

While I don’t see this as the last we’ve heard from this kind of program, my hope is that it comes back in the form of a “tip” system, where customers can chose to donate to mods deemed worthy of compensation and recognition. This way, both the consumers and the developers can get a more realistic idea as to whether or not a mod should be monetized or perhaps made into its own game.

Feel free to weigh in yourselves. Do you think it’s fair to charge for mods before they’ve had any recognition?

/gameon

10523309_10155498371360603_2318789489273724365_o"From one Redskin to another... Go fuck yourself."

Something, Something Game News – 300 Bugs: Madness? This is business as usual

Standard
ubisofteaThis industry deserves a better class of publisher.

I have returned to writing blog posts as my opinion of some of the larger publishers continues to be justified. A few days ago, Ubisoft “apologized” to customers for its rather contemptuous release of Assassin’s Creed: Unity with an absolutely unacceptable amount of bugs and problems by offering DLC and other games for free.

While it was a good move on their part, I’m left feeling like this is not the last we’ll be hearing from Ubisoft and sub-par releases. I had immediately lost faith in Unity upon hearing that it would not be supporting framerates over 30fps because it felt “more cinematic.” Plus, after the Watch Dogs fiasco of intentionally gimped graphics support, it’s becoming more and more clear that Ubisoft has lost all interest in the PC market and making games which actually perform to the “next-gen” standards they supposedly strive towards.

5787170Obligatory #pcmasterrace

Ubisoft isn’t the only culprit, either. Activision’s Advanced Warfare has suffered from significant release issues and has been widely considered as an awful port to PC. Go back a little further, and we can include EA’s Sims 4 and Battlefield 4 releases as well. These are the three largest and most prestigious game publishers in the industry, and not one of them can brag about a smooth release of a flagship title in the last couple of years. So what the fuck is going on?

They’re still making money.

srslywtf"I dunno... it was on sale."

However, I’m not going to sit here and blame you as the consumer. Personally, I’m not planning on buying a title from any of those publishers for a long long time, and certainly won’t be getting any of the titles released in the last year or two, but I can’t expect everyone else to be as enthusiastic to boycott them. I played the shit out of Battlefield 2, 3 and Bad Company 2. Up until around Revelations, I thought the Assassin’s Creed series would go on to be a dynasty of Legend of Zelda proportions. I loved Mass Effect 1 and 2. Hell, I bought Titanfall. I too have been seduced by the siren call of some of the big brand titles. But the fact remains, most of the releases as of late have not only been lackluster, but completely unacceptable from companies with such expansive resources.

While I personally will be boycotting these publishers for a while, I’m not going to preach to others about what games they should or should not buy. I will, however, suggest that they should stop pre-ordering them. When you throw $60-100 on a game that hasn’t been released just because Kevin Spacey has his face in it, all it tells Activision is that you will give them money just for spending money on big names. It doesn’t tell them you want good technical support, especially after how awful the release of Ghosts was. It tells them you don’t care how bad Ghosts was, because you already bought Advanced Warfare.

moregripe2"I dunno... it has Kevin Spacey in it."

The same goes for any other title which has waned in recent years. If you don’t want it to become an assembly line product designed only to be sold this year, because you can fucking guarantee there will be another one next year, you have to stop pre-ordering the sequel. Just wait. Merely being withholding will tell a company a lot about your expectations: i.e. you actually want to wait to see if it’s a good game before blowing your cash on it. I know it’s a hard thing to do in this age of instant gratification, but shouldn’t one still consider patience to be a virtue?

/gameon

ggnintendoA little foreshadow for tomorrow's entry.

Something, Something Game News – Back with a Venture

Standard

See what I did there?

So I’ve been lax for a couple weeks on updating the blog, but I’ve been busy. Here’s why:

nereuskickpage

There is water and boats and building and stuff.

I’m not going to gloat and tell you why this will be the most successful kickstarter ever… mostly because I don’t even know at this point. I also won’t be spamming every day for 30 days on this blog. If you’re interested, give it a click, check it out, toss it a buck or 20. Otherwise, I’ll be back to my usual ranting and reviewing as of tomorrow.

Cheers, and as always,

/gameon