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

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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

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Stay safe, trainers. ;)
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Something, Something Game News – Stop being impressed by 1st Gen VR

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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:

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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

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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

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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

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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

Game Review – Starpoint Gemini 2

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Game review – Starpoint Gemini 2
Platform – PC (exclusive)
Developer – Little Green Men Games
Publisher – Iceberg Interactive

Release date – 26 Sept, 2014

Rating – 8/10

42islife

Because no space-related article is complete without a Douglas Adams quote.

Starpoint Gemini 2 is the first real *complete* space title to come along since the abysmal launch of X: Rebirth. Having left a considerable gap in the market for the hardcore space-sim crowd, we’ve seen the rise of titles like Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous among a few botched attempts like Transverse. Since the closest to completion at this point (yet still quite aways off) is Elite: Dangerous, but has a rather steep point of entry to the beta, your best bet for spacey goodness in a released package at a relatively inexpensive price is Starpoint Gemini 2.

starpointgeminigunsgunsguns

Expecting a vast, open void of quiet trade routes and peaceful sailing? This is not that game.

One of the first things you’ll notice about Starpoint Gemini 2 is its unabashed density. Space is not wide open and quiet. You will encounter many anomalies, wrecks, asteroid belts, wormholes, ruins and countless hostiles trying to drill you a new asshole — and that’s just while flying from A to B. There’s no dull moment in this universe. Yet, amid the nearly staggering depth and complexity, there is an apparent simplicity to the control scheme. You won’t be doing a lot of dog fighting and navigating, rather you will be angling your ship for better weapon and shield coverage while giving commands for boarding procedures and defense protocols. You are made to feel more like a ship captain than a pilot. This perhaps takes a bit of the “sim” out of the game from the perspective of flying the ship, but adds a lot in terms of commanding one.

This is actually one of the things the game really has going for it. Rather than relying on pure skill and fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants speed, the game plays out a little more like an action RPG. You have skills and powerups based on your class, giving you tactical advantages for say, commanding fleets and using boarding parties, rather than just blasting your way in and out of any given situation.

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It's a spacesimactionRPG.

True to the space-sim genre, the title has a fairly steep learning curve in the early game. There’s not a lot of reward for your time spent, and sometimes you just feel vastly under-powered. However, stick with it long enough, and the ratio flips. Suddenly, you are building a fleet around you, commanding a rather devastating ship of your own, and you begin to feel like a force of destruction within the universe. Due to the contentious nature of the many NPC factions, there’s no shortage of wars to be waged or space to conquer even outside of the main story-line.

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The rather detailed and expansive map requires manual exploration, too.

This brings me to the title’s biggest flaw: the campaign. It’s both boring and poorly written. It tries too hard to be compelling with the most cliche revenge-but-deeper-than-you-think-wink-wink played out archetypes imaginable, with long, uninspired speeches from every damn character, which are all horribly voiced. I don’t just mean the acting is bad, either. The audio quality and volume levels vary between EVERY character, and it sounds like there was no direction at all. No one even tried to put a little effect on the voices to sound spacey. As a guy who is actively trying to work in the audio side of the game industry, I am almost offended by how bad the voice work is in this title. If anyone from LGMG reads this: please drop me a line and I will gladly run your vocals through a compressor or something at the very least. It’s seriously bad enough to make me want to give up on the campaign altogether.

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TL;DR, never mind the yawn-worthy VO. The ability to skip has never been more welcome.

Despite the glaringly awful campaign, the game has more than enough to do to keep you interested. You can elect to forego the story altogether and just freeplay your way around its colourful universe. Its ARPG inspiration means menus and contextual system management, while still as complex as you would expect from a space sim, are easily managed and controlled via its well-designed user interface. While it can sometimes feel a little candy-coated, I mean it with the highest compliment that everything just “makes sense.” It’s refreshing to play a space sim with such a simple UI that manages to retain the depth of control I demand. While there is a bit of a learning curve compared to broader reaching titles, it’s not nearly as steep as some of its predecessors.

While it’s hard to compare Starpoint Gemini 2 to some if its competitors (namely Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous) as a space-sim, it manages to set itself apart with its RPG elements and clever UI. It will never match up to the hardcore realism of other titles, nor does it try to. It’s a great entry on its own, and should be a valuable little gem in any space-sim enthusiast’s collection. Here’s to hoping the main campaign and voice work get some attention, because it could be the difference between a great space game, and one of the best to come along in a while.

/gameon

spg2space2

P.S. Space is pretty.

Something, Something Game News – How not to Kickstarter: A Final Word on Human Resources

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My day of reckoning has arrived early, it seems. More than two weeks ahead of schedule, Uber Entertainment has canceled funding to their most recent RTS title, Human Resources. As most of you already know, I called this a few days after the Kickstarter was launched. With shoddy communication, and a lack of commitment to their previous titles, it was no surprise to me that this decision came early.

However, I’m not here to shout “I told you so!” to my critics, but merely to document my experience with Uber and covering the drama. Something to do with journalism and trying look like I know stuff rather than making a lucky guess. Over the last few days, I’ve been active on the Planetary Annihilation subreddit and even received a response from Uber staff. While the future of HR is likely over, Uber may yet redeem themselves.

HRcanceled

Ok, I'll say it just the once: I told you so.

Since I’ve already said as much I’m going to say about Uber’s failure to communicate and lack of realistic concern for their own reputation, I will focus primarily on the last few days of Uber’s push to get more support.

It all started when I got an email from Uber (as a customer of Planetary Annihilation) showing desperation for pledges. Uber’s making one last ditch push. It seemed to work. They actually managed to get their dwindling support to more than 7x what they were getting. But this was already too late in the game. Getting from $5k/day to $35k/day when you realistically need at least $50k/day just to reach the goal line isn’t enough to make a difference. Plus, sticking a limit on $1 donations to prevent dissenters doesn’t exactly make you look good.

limitercropped

It's not there anymore, but it actually happened. Guess who called them out...

I happened to notice nearly the moment after someone made this decision. As the plucky pot-stirrer that I am, I headed straight to reddit and posted about it. Went right to number #1. Within an hour, they removed the limit.

potstir1cropped

Holy crap... does that mean Uber actually listened to me??

It seemed that was finally enough to get Uber to come down from their thrones of ambiguity to actually talk to people and gauge the community. Of course, still too late to come out ahead, but I was actually able to get some dialogue with Planetary Annihilation’s Director of Production, Jeremy Ables. Here’s an excerpt so you don’t have to dig through a long thread:

nate1

pfomega1

nate2

jables1

pfomega2

pfomeganjables

See? I can not be a dick sometimes.

Does any of this mean that Uber is actually listening? Well, the “Weekly Discussion” changed within 24 hours of my saying that asking about “anticipated features” should have been a question for beta period. It is now, “What can be done to better balance Naval?” which is a topic the community has been complaining about since well before the game was launched.

So in the very short term, I can say with certainty that Uber is indeed listening. They can’t afford not to. It’s not going to bring Human Resources back to life any time soon, but it may pull Planetary Annihilation out of its abysmal launch woes.

As my last words, I’d like to say that I write this not with arrogant confidence that I was right, but with genuine concern for the gaming industry. While Uber may have learned from their mistakes, I fear others will not, and this trend of developers failing due to lack of touch with their community will continue. I write only in the hopes that my words may inspire some not to follow in their path…Or you know, because it’s fun. Fuck yeah.

/gameon

dangerzonearcher

*drops mic*