Category Archives: Industry

“Hey Phil, I’m with you on this one…”

Since I am semi back on the site, I thought I would take this opportunity to say “hey Phil Fish, I’m with you on this one.”

For those who are not aware, Phil Fish is a Montreal based developer, the creator of the massively popular title, Fez.  Fish had announced the sequel to this very same game not too long ago, but, in a surprising move earlier this week, he announced its cancellation, after being the target of numerous vicious and hateful comments.

“FEZ II is cancelled.”  He said.

“i am done.  i take the money and i run.  this is as much as i can stomach.
this is isn’t the result of any one thing, but the end of a long, bloody campaign.”

Many would disagree with me, but like I said I’m with Phil on this one.  Granted all I know of the guy is from Indie Game: The Movie, but he seems like a decent guy to me, just your average joe trying to make a living.

And I feel his pain you know.  I have been working in retail for 10+ years and I know just how horrible people can be, and, as everybody knows folks on the internet can be A LOT worse.  Which is why as much as I hate to say it, I was not surprised by the level of hatred that he had to endure, or even at the level of abuse that people are still throwing his way even now.

Right now I am hearing a lot of people saying things like “yeah he should’ve ignored the nasty comments” or “he should’ve stayed out of the public domain”, a sentiment which I sort of agree with.  But, on the same note I say he shouldn’t have to.  Bully is bullying – it just shouldn’t happen, and when it does we shouldn’t just stand back and accept it.  Why and when has it become the norm, for it to be acceptable for folks to be attacked and abused?  And why in gods name are people frowning upon and punishing those who are the victims of abuse, at folks like Fish, and not those who are throwing the abuse in the first place?

It is a truly sad world we live in indeed.


Force It Down My Throat, Please

Let me start off by saying that I am NOT a fan of non-traditional gimmicky controllers and peripherals, since they are never utilised properly, and, for the most part are usually little more than previous gen tech, repackaged to run cheaply made un-innovative titles that are nothing more than half-developed tech demos.  I was particularly down on the current gen of gimmicks in particular – namely the Kinect and the PSMove.

Well this week I stumbled upon this video highlighting the Kinect upgrade for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, showing off some rather interesting gameplay controls using voice commands.  Part of me was intrigued by the addition of the Kinect features – however, my intrigue was overwhelmed by the fact that voice controls like these have been around for over a decade, and I was reminded just why I was so down on these gimmicky platforms in the first place, and how annoyed I actually am at the slow pace of innovation in the industry.

Way back in the PlayStaion 2 days I was wowed by the then-innovative use of voice control and microphone tech in games such as LifelineGhost Recon: Jungle Storm and Manhunt, and I was very much looking forward to seeing what the then-new consumer technologies like voice recognition, Eyetoy, DVD and the internet would bring to market.  However fast forward now to nearly a decade later – technologies have advanced in leaps and bounds, but it pains me to see that we are still pretty much playing the exact same types of games, using the same old recycled technologies.

It frustrates and annoys the hell out of me to see this stagnation in the field, to see just how much untapped potential there are with these platforms.  To see how the companies are failing to capitalise on their own devices, how they are failing to deliver on the things promised by their own technologies, and how the majority of them are failing to take risks, to take steps forward in the name of innovation.  And I am certainly sick and tired of seeing companies refusing to provide support and development for their own products, simply due to fear of alienating their existing established user bases.

We, the consumers, are as much to blame too, with our damned mainstream mob mentalities and our hostile schizophrenic attitudes.  I despise the fact how so many people would complain about the lack of innovation and change, but then when the odd developers (especially when it comes to those who operates on the more mainstream end of the market) do attempt something different, these very same people would then criticised and punished them for it.

With our own unwillingness to embrace the new, or in fact anything that might deviate from the norm – we are forcing these companies to cater to our every tiny little whim, and in a sense encouraging the creation of un-innovative titles that are safe, unimaginative, and altogether forgettable.

As much as I hate companies like FaceBook and Apple, and the tactics applied by them, part of me is starting to think that perhaps others should follow their leads.  As I have said before I am sick and tired of being pleased and appeased. Instead of trying to ease us gently into their platforms and technologies, pushing them out slowly and splash-lessly into the waters and moving with the ebb and flow of the market – perhaps more companies should learn to ignore the rest of the world, to say consumers be damned.  To produce new and exciting creations based not upon the demands of the common man, but rather, upon the strength of their own technological prowess and their own artistic visions and imaginations.

Strange as it might sound, I wish companies would become more aggressive and start forcing their products down our throats.  We might choke and we might gag, but at least then we might start to see some real innovations, and perhaps then the industry as a whole might finally move forward.

 


Monopoly of The Multi-platform

I have seen many discussions regarding platform-exclusivities of games in recent times, and I have heard many arguments both for and against.  Some argue that the focus of games should be on the games themselves, and that one should not be confined and restricted by their choice of platforms.  They advocate the breaking down of the platform barrier, and suggests that all games should be available across all platforms, accessible by all – some extremists are even calling for the one single platform system.

I, however, sit on the other side of the fence.  While I do agree that focus should be on the games, and not on the platforms, I personally think that multi-platform gaming is having a negative effect on our gaming.  In my opinion multi-platform is a type of monopoly, and monopolies tends to have a negative impact on competition, on innovation, on brand loyalty, and on the industry in general.  Yes, I understand most people can’t afford multiple systems, and I do agree it is neat being able to play a game for the sake of the game no matter what you own.  But I am still against multi-platform gaming for the monopoly factor alone.

With multi-platform games you usually end up with slightly different experiences anyways, due to the hardware and the different way the games were developed.  I’m sick and tired of having one version with higher rez textures, another with different lighting, while yet another with different bugs or sometimes different playmodes and chars.  I want games developed with particular systems in mind, with focus on that systems capabilities and userbase.  I don’t want games which were developed with the median or the lowest common denominator in mind, with controls that don’t quite work on any of the platforms, and patches and DLCs which comes at different times.

Competition also drives innovation, plus, system exclusive titles (for the most part) just have so much more personality, and I find myself caring a lot more about them than I do with a lot of these big name generic sequel-breeders nowadays.  Modern games I am finding are just becoming so generic, so forgettable and lacking in personality nowadays.  I really do miss the olden days of the old console wars, of the big mascots, where each of the platforms had distinctive personalities.

This is why I am loving the fact that David Cage of Quantic Dream is popping up all over the internet, singing praises about the PlayStation 3, and pledging his loyalty to the platform. This, in my opinion, is great news indeed, not just for fans of Sony and the PlayStation brand, but also for gamers like myself who (as you know) are worried about the current state of the gaming industry, and for the future of gaming in general.  Cage may not be single-handedly revolutionising the gaming world perhaps, but at least he is helping to delay the monopoly, and for that, he has my gratitude and my support.


Generically Average

Square-Enix announced earlier this month game-wide server mergers and character transfers for their MMO ‘Final Fantasy XIV‘.  However due to player feedback, they removed the announcement a few days later, stating “In order to ensure that the most desirable and effective outcome is achieved, we will be reassessing the method of the merger process.”

[UPDATE: Square-Enix have announced that the server merger process has been reevaluated, and are going ahead starting from March 1st, 2012.  Details could be found at http://lodestone.finalfantasyxiv.com/pl/topics/detail?id=13222abe211533c87814786dc7c7c72707574cb8 ]

I must say, my feelings are kind of mixed about the whole ordeal.

On one hand, I feel like I SHOULD be happy, myself having resubscribed to the game recently.  Their willingness to reassess their merger process due to feedback means that there are still a large number of active players, and more importantly, a large number of active players who are passionate enough about the game to raise their voices, and give game-changing feedback.  It also means that perhaps, just perhaps, the current developers care about their players, and indeed care enough to listen to and take their feedbacks seriously.

On the other hand, this serves to highlight a problem that I have with a lot of game developers today.  I understand that like the rest of us, they need to make a living too, and that they are under constant pressure from the publishers, the press, the players, and indeed from the rest of the industry in general to succeed.  But it really annoys and saddens me, seeing the way how so many developers could just abandon and change the direction and the development of their projects so easily and willingly.

Personally I have just about had enough with their constant drive for appeasement, and it is breaking my heart, this seemingly lack of conviction on their part.  Again I say, I understand that it is their job, and that they are in the business of producing games that appeals and sells to the masses.  But I couldn’t help but feel that somewhere along the line, their quest for the dollars has lead to the abandonment of their integrity, creativity, and artistic vision, and have in the process let innovation fall by the wayside.

While I might not be a fan of all of their works, I really do admire folks like David Cage, Peter Molyneux, Hideo Kojima, Will Wright, Richard Garriott, and others like them.  I just wish more would join the ranks of these dwindling number of stubborn, self-righteous developers – people who are willing to stand their ground, and create products that are the results of the conviction of their own artistic visions and concepts.

Even if they don’t always succeed on what they set out to create, or deliver on their promises, at least you’d know that each time you start up one of their games, you’re in for something unique and distilled with personality.  You know to expect pieces of art, and not some generically-average mass-produced clone of all the other games currently on the market.

Perhaps this is why I feel so jaded nowadays, and why the industry as a whole feels so stagnant to me.  Damnit, I WANT to be shocked; I NEED to be scared; to be outraged; surprised.  Perhaps I am unique in the way that I feel, but I just don’t want to be pleased anymore.


The DLC Rant (Part 2)

 

5:30am, dead tired but cannot fall asleep for some reason, so I thought hey what better way to lull myself to sleep then to log on and read my own writing? Heh.  Anyways looking back at last night’s post (https://skepticalhero.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/the-dlc-rant/), I just want to add that I know DLCs are here to stay, and that no amount of me ranting will change that.  However, I do think a new model needs to be put in place.

Physical retail stores are worried about declining sales due to digital distribution; publishers are worried about lost of revenue due to the sales of second hand games; and everybody’s worried about the whole piracy issue.  A lot of publishers already have online passes of some sort, so I say why not take it all a step further to the benefit of everybody involved?  Why not make it so physical copies of the games ship with single-use DLC-passes which gives your account free access to ALL existing and future DLCs for that particular game (complete with Steam style autopatching)?  At the same time make the digital copy of the game cheaper to buy, but make the DLC-pass unavailable for purchase online, making it so digital owners will still need to pay for individual DLCs as they are released.

The DLC-pass means the DLCs would be linked to registered accounts, which would grant publishers some form of protection against piracy, and at the same time encouraging the purchase of physical first hand copies of their games, while discouraging second hand trading.  Cheaper digital copies would mean more people are likely to try out and buy these titles online, but at the same time the DLC-pass would lure more people into paying the full price for the physical copies, since it guarantees them the fullest, most complete experience available, complete with hassle free DLC downloading and patching.

Well… thats my idea anyways, but heck I don’t know.  It sounds good in theory and it makes sense to me in my head – but hey, surely if a simple system like that can really solve so many problems, then one of these well paid big shot industry types would have thought of and implemented something similar by now… right?


The DLC Rant

New playable character Nikki Summerfield from the upcoming DLC pack.

Konami has just announced a release date of February 21st for their upcoming DLC pack, for their action adventure title ‘NeverDead‘.  The game is not even out in the stores in New Zealand yet, as far as I could tell, and to be honest it wasn’t even on my radar.  However, that announcement really annoyed the hell outta me, as it highlighted one of my major gripes with the gaming industry at the moment.

Right now I am seeing a trend where the focus of the developers and publishers are on DLCs and micro-expansions, with a lot of them planning DLCs ahead of time, and sometimes even announcing them BEFORE the actual games themselves are released.  Or worse, some companies even ship the DLCs along with the physical games, and then later on sell digital codes to unlock the DLCs online.

While I do appreciate the idea of additional contents, which expands and extends the lives of games that you love, I personally just cannot stand a lot of these modern day DLCs.  The problem is a lot of time nowadays, you end up feeling like you are playing an incomplete game, and that you are being punished and penalised, and coerced into paying for more whenever a DLC comes out.

It is getting ridiculous how we are getting to a stage, where in order to get the full complete experience out of a game, you not only need to pre-order to get the pre-order DLC, but you also need to pay for several stages of post-release DLCs, and sometimes videos and other contents as well – for example just look at ‘Assassin’s Creed: Revelations‘, where the real ending for the Enzio character was not included as part of the game, but rather only available if you pay extra for the special editions, or as a separate purchase from Xbox Live –  and all that, is on top of the cost of the actual game itself.  Not to mention the cost of the bandwidth required to download the DLCs, as well as on average at least 1gb worth of patches and bug fixes.

At the risk of sounding like some cranky old man sitting on his porch, I just wanna ask – whatever the hell happened to the good old days when you buy a game, and it came fully playable and complete out of the box?


Innovation vs Gimmick

Innovation or gimmick? Only time will tell.

Earlier this year Nintendo released a brand new handheld console, a supposingly innovative system which was regarded by many as a gimmick device.  With their brand new 3DS, Nintendo had promised “a breakthrough in portable entertainment”, and had called their device “a cutting-edge piece of hardware that is more than just a leap forward in 3D gaming technology”, with “built-in features and applications that are accessible right out of the box.”  They had promised a unique social experience, and claimed that their device “opens up a whole new world of eye-popping gameplay possibilities.”

3D gaming, however, is currently still very much a gimmick, as the 3D used in the games do not actually affect the gameplay in any meaningful way.  Also, unfortunately as of right now, the 3DS is still missing some of its promised features, including access to the internet browser and the online games shop.  Meanwhile, other core features like the StreetPass functions are more or less made redundant for most users, due to a lack of compatible users in their nearby areas.  On top of that, the system had launched with a very limited and lacklustre lineup of games, a lineup which did not fully take advantage of the systems hardware, and failed to show off its more interesting features.  At the end of the day, we are left with a system that feels and functions very much like all the other existing systems on the market.  Simply put – at this current stage in time, the 3DS fails to live up to its potential, and its own promise of innovation.

To be fair, this device was released only recently, and it is early days still for the console.  But, there lies the problem.  There are so many companies out there promising innovation, but often, especially in the gaming world, it feels like they are banking on innovation happening at a later stage on their systems, as supposed to delivering the innovation that they themselves have promised along with their products.  Or worse still, is seeing companies out there releasing products that shows great potential for innovation, and then seeing the very same companies failing to nurture and capitalise on their own products, and thus, in the process allowing their products to become mere gimmicks.

There is a very thin line between innovation and gimmick.  True innovation have become few and between nowadays, and products and features which companies herald as ‘innovation’ rarely are.  Which is why it angers me so much, seeing companies claiming territory on the side of innovation, but ends up spending all of their time dancing on the borderline, but never quite landing on either side.  It just breaks my heart, seeing all the wasted possibilities out there. It is like seeing a cartful of cold deserts melting quietly under a hot summer sun – all that potential, wasted, abandoned, and unrealised…


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