Nintendo Embodies The Rebel Teen In All Of Us

Everyone has a little rebel in them, right?

Back when I was growing up, I was always told to be unique. Being yourself and standing out in a crowded space has always been a defining aspect of my life. This fundamental difference between yourself and others helps you define what you are.

In a way, this is best seen in modern youth. The “Disenfranchised” and rebellious, the ones who don’t like the way things are and want to do something different and better than what came before.

Nintendo hasn’t always been about bucking the trend, but they have adapted to embody that way of thinking.

One of the many rebellious Nintendo moves.
Wii Fit is one of many breakouts from tradition and expectation.

Not Always So Out Of Line…

Nintendo hasn’t always been so out of line with expectations. In fact for the longest time the company was seen as overly conservative. A system and library for kids, playing it safe, while the “Big Boys” went mature.

It wasn’t until the Nintendo DS and Wii that we saw them break off into a new direction, one forged by desire to be different, seeing the writing on the wall: If you conform, eventually you will fade. This led to unprecedented success and while it alienated those who only wanted “The Norm”, it grew gaming to new heights.

As Reggie Fils-Aime once said, gaming wasn’t growing while everyone was chasing the same market over and over. Staying the same leads to stagnation, which leads to boredom and eventually the market would likely have folded. This was simply unsustainable. Without new ideas, new ways of playing, gaming would have continued down the stereotyped path, with everyone roughly in line trying the same things. Remember the over-saturation of shooters?

The new gaming world is adapting, and even then, Nintendo refuses to follow the path.
The Modern Gaming World has evolved, and change was inevitable.

But What Of The Modern World?

Previously it has been discussed at length about how Nintendo Switch and even Nintendo LABO push gaming into new frontiers.

But even then, this is how Nintendo has chosen to go through with evolution. Switch is the current pinnacle of gaming convenience in an always moving world. Where the young and old alike can’t be confined to one space anymore. Where the notion of everything being solely in one place is outdated: The under your TV box is archaic.

LABO exists as a testament to how gaming is more than just entertainment: It can be educational, inspiring and a lot more. These are moves other companies are often afraid to take. Even Sony with VR was very tentative and that is still an isolated, TV room experience, though Oculus and even Nintendo somewhat look to expand what is possible.

Microsoft and other companies are looking to game streaming as a future, where everything is with you always (Internet provided) and this enables so much more to be done in the industry. Perhaps it isn’t ready yet, but it will be eventually, and it won’t be the only way of playing games, you can guarantee that.

Sometimes following the trend isn't for you.
Nintendo broke ground with their attitude to monetisation in Dragalia Lost

Rebel Against Current Trends

Nintendo recently made waves with the reveal that they encourage their mobile development partners to be limiting with monetisation.

CyGames and their parent company expressed frustration at the idea of limiting revenue. They exclaimed had Nintendo not been involved, they would have made more.

This lines up with the established intent of mobile games by Nintendo. Unlike other companies who see a gold mine, it exists as advertising. Using mobile titles, in everyone’s hands, can invest people in IP, and move them to Switch and other systems.

The same is true of microtransactions and live services. Shigeru Miyamoto stated that developers need to be wary of how many live services there are, and how value is lost by them overcharging.

When seeking a partner for this, it’s important to find someone who understands the value of your software. Then customers will feel the value in your apps and software and develop a habit of paying money for them.

Source

Simply put, it’s the effect shown by games such as Destiny and Anthem: Overcharging for an underwhelming experience. If these models are to take off, they need to be fewer in number, higher in quality, and fairer in price.

In the end, everyone is a little rebellious. Seeing something succeed and show the way forward isn’t entrenched in tradition, greed, or follow the leader, calls to people who want more from gaming.

Nintendo has become the masters of defying expectations and making new ways to play. In the modern world of being different to survive, it’s success has come from playing to what the world wants.

Impressions: Nogalious

Nogalious is a challenging and short platform puzzler from LUEGOLU3GO STUDIOS. What did we think of the opening title of this trilogy?

 

Free Product provided generously by LUEGOLU3GO STUDIOS!

 

Nogalious is a game that captures the essence of challenging retro titles, injecting some light puzzle elements. This classic design can lead to a sometimes frustrating but equally rewarding experience.

Nogalious is very much a retro styled game.

Nogalious proves to be a fun and challenging title.

 

How Does It Look?

Nogalious aims to replicate the earlier days of gaming.

Nogalious captures the classic PC era of gaming perfectly.

Nogalious is a very simple game. Objects are defined and the character stands out. Enemies can at times blend in, red bats and red clouds for instance, but the aesthetic suits the game well.

Items are often obvious, though at times can be obscured by the low-level of detail making it hard to see what you need to do.

As the game is a puzzle platformer of sorts, you need to examine each screen carefully to identify your objective, usually a key, to be able to pass to the next screen. This can involve pushing or pulling graves to align them, or killing all the enemies.

Of course the soundtrack is suitably retro, and captures the gothic feel of each stage well.

 

How Does It Play?

Nogalious isn't always a pleasant walk.

Nogalious can sometimes be a bit challenging…

Gameplay is as noted above, find the objective to grab a key to move to the next screen. Progress through each screen in a stage and finish the stage.

Along the way will be special stones and weapons for Nogalious to use. These range from a sword, a boomerang, and even timed mines. Each of these works differently and can be cycled through, so finding the right one is key for each situation.

Sometimes the way forward isn’t particularly clear, and this can come down to either the visuals, or the translation. The translation for Nogalious is odd in that while it gets the basics across, the language barrier proves difficult when explaining finer mechanics. With experimentation though it doesn’t take long to grasp.

Nogalious himself is very easy to control, being able to attack, jump and pull or push objects. Oddly jump is assigned to pressing Up, but this is simply a matter of adjusting. You have fluid mid-air control, but be warned as some platforms are less solid than they appear.

 

Let’s Talk Problems

Sometimes the solution is hard to see.

What do you see on this screen? Do you see a way to lower the water?

Trying to find the solution to a screen requires precise assessment of the pixel art. On the screen above you have a branch on a tree that will lower the water level and let you find the key to progress. Of course, this isn’t immediately obvious.

Another problem with the above screen is the crows. Given Nogalious perishes in a single hit, and they can eat away at the respawning vines you need to climb and jump between, and contact damage is also fatal, care is required.

There is a degree of randomness to this all. How much of the vine they chop away depends on where they land. Further, jumping between vines requires you to first jump and then move, making it feel more awkward than need be.

The final issue is, unfortunately, overall difficulty. The challenge in each room can vary greatly, and your limited lives and fragility lead to using your limited continues at which point, well back to the start.

This is a game about mastery, so a lot of trial and error will get you to the end.

Expect to die. A lot.

I saw this a lot…

Overall?

Nogalious is a fun game held back by its reference material. It’s still a great time, but the less patient gamers may find it a bit much. It’s fairly short, but the amount of (Mandatory) replaying will leave you chasing that high score if you are persistent.

I recommend this quite easily to fans of classic challenging titles.

If you want to see the game in action, we have a short stream below:

Thanks for reading everyone, and don’t forget to share what you think of on social media or try it out for yourself on Steam. While you are here, check out our other Impressions pieces! Until next time, Happy Gaming!

NL Inklings Community: Our September 2018 Tournament Schedule!

It’s a new month which means new a new tournament! Well…three!

First up, last month was excellent with participation in our Splatoon 2 Tournament, but we had some issues regarding length and missing players. The October season is currently up in the air, or ARMS (HA!), so stay tuned for that info in September. But for now…

The structure of two tournaments per month remains, but with one more due to how the calendar worked out. The first will always be Splatoon 2, and two weeks later we will hold a tournament for a different game.

In this case, we have the returning Splatoon 2 tournament…and a popular eSports title…AND a classic party favourite!

 

Splatoon 2 – NL Inklings: Special Showdown! (September 1st 2018)!

The NL Inklings return to Splatoon 2!

The Special Showdown Tourney!

Organised by Golden, NinjaAceTrainer and newcomer to the team Agent Quinkling, we have the Special Showdown!

This tournament will see teams limited to one special weapon per team. That’s right, your whole crew only gets to use weapons with a specific special! The teams are Inkjet, Splashdown, Bomb Launcher and Baller!

This will be a standard Round-Robin tournament with one match played per mode, duking it out across all 5 modes. How teams are decided however…is a little different.

The highest ranked players who sign up will be assigned as team captains, and then get to enter a bidding war for other entrants to join their team! Each additional entrant will get a chance to make themselves seem appealing beforehand, so don’t worry if you feel you won’t be picked!

These teams can then synergise and work out what weapons and gear they wish to use, while keeping to their special restriction!

 

This tournament takes place on September 1st at 5pm BST sharp!

Sign ups open TODAY, August 20th!

Rules will be published TODAY!

Sign ups will be live until Wednesday August 29th!

The Auction will be held on August 30th!

 

Rocket League – NL Inklings: Rocket League of Legends! (September 15 2018)!

Another special tournament from the NL Inklings!

Rocket League of Legends!

Thanks to Shani and Nick for organising this one! A game we are quite fond of! This popular game is going to be the subject of our second tournament!

Full details will be worked out leading to the event, regarding modes and team sizes as well as format, but this will all be revealed once the Special Showdown tournament has concluded!

A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE IS THAT DUE TO SONY’S CROSS PLATFORM PLAY POLICIES IN EFFECT AT THIS TIME, PS4 USERS WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PARTICIPATE! Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch users will be fine.

 

This tournament takes place on September 15th at 5pm sharp!

Sign Ups will go live on September 5th!

Rules will be published on September 8th!

Sign Ups will close on September 12th!

 

 

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U – NL Inklings: Fall Brawl! (September 29 2018)!

We will give Smash 4 a true send off!

The Smash Bros. Fall Brawl!

Organised by Haruki and Nicolai, we are bringing Super Smash Bros. for Wii U to the forefront one final time before Ultimate releases this holiday!

What better way to ring in the Fall season than by smacking around the entire Fire Emblem cast? Oh, and some other guys are here too!

Full details will be worked out closer to the event, and the full reveal will be right after the Rocket League tournament!

This tournament takes place on September 29th at 5pm sharp!

Sign Ups will go live on September 19th!

Rules will be published on September 22nd!

Sign Ups will close on September 26th!

 

 

That’s all for now. See you on the Splattlefield, the pitch, or in battle! NL Inklings out, Happy Gaming!

Impressions: Tiny Hands Adventure

Tiny Hands Adventure is a charming little romp of a platformer from Blue Sunset Games. What did we think of Borti’s debut adventure for bigger hands?

 

Free Product provided generously by Blue Sunset Games!

Sometimes simple is better than messy.

Tiny Hands Adventure is a nice and charming 3D platformer

Tiny Hands Adventure is a game that manages to evoke its reference material and present some new ideas to forge a unique identity. What you ultimately get is a solid experience full of charm and unique ideas, but nothing truly stellar. Good, but not super amazing.

 

How Does It Look?

Tiny Hands Adventure has a lot of variety!

Tiny Hands Adventure is actually a quite attractive game with a lot of variety.

Tiny Hands Adventure is a very charming game. Not confined the dinosaur appropriate locales, the games has you climb lighthouses, traverse swamps, top-down view mazes, inter-dimensional stairways and even a comic book. While it may seem to be a visual mismatch, the game maintains its identity even though different settings.

On PC the game runs perfectly fine. No issues with resolution of frame rate, that I can see. On Nintendo Switch, I cannot say, but it stands to a reason a fairly simple game should have no issues.

Sometimes the worlds may look a little empty or flat, and the text certainly isn’t as refined or well implemented as it could be, but it’s functional. Everything is appropriate and accounted for.

I also have to say, the soundtrack is really good. Not a dull track in there, a good range of styles and lively beats.

 

How Does It Play?

Even with a controller on PC the game was very responsive.

Tiny Hands Adventure is a very nice feeling game in the hand.

Gameplay in Tiny Hands Adventure is simple. Progress through each stage in a tier, in what order you desire, grab the main collectible and finish the stage. When all 4 collectibles are assembled you can take on the boss.

Boss battles are perhaps the weakest aspect of the game as a whole, lacking feedback to being hit and at times either being too long for a fight that has no checkpoints, or being simply a waiting and dodging exercise. They aren’t bad, but some fine tuning would have been nice.

Beating a boss awards you a “Hand”, an extension of Borti’s standard tail whip. These include a drill, plastic grab hand that doubles as a wider spin, and grappling arms. Each of these are used in various stages, some even requiring repeat visits later in the game. Beyond this though, they feel under-utilised, but give Borti more to do as the game progresses.

Strikingly, the game encourages repeat visits to stages by offering 5 collectible crystals. Some require certain Hands, so making note of the different environmental situations is key. Collecting all five unlocks the harder version of a stage, with a single white crystal to collect, for 100% completion and rewards.

This is a simple but effective way of improving replay value, and while the game isn’t too difficult, the harder stages are definitely where the greatest challenge lies.

Borti himself however, is a joy to control. His weight feels right and his movement, even when using a controller on PC, feels smooth. There were very few times I felt like a death was the fault of the game, and rather my own judgement. He has a wide range of moves including a spin and slide, so he comes well equipped, though these feel under utilised until later, as the level design is often rather basic and doesn’t require much use of these advanced moves.

 

Let’s Talk Problems

Sometimes you can make Borti a super T-Rex

This game does have some rather entertaining bugs

This release is by no means flawless. As a smaller title errors do slip through. Sometimes you may find something isn’t quite solid, or a hitbox is a little misaligned on some spikes. Regardless, the game still manages to be fun.

The aforementioned issues with boss battles stands out as a real low point, as does the lack of enemy interaction, instead acting as stationary obstacles.

The game could perhaps come off as boring to some with its relative ease and simplicity, but to others this may be a positive. That is for the individual to decide.

Finally, and this is a purely personal problem, the explosive boxes in the game aren’t distinguishable enough from their standard counterparts, with the explosive graphic only appearing on some sides and the colour (Because I’m colour blind) being near identical.

 

Overall?

Tiny Hands Adventure is a game that occupies the same space as Sonic 1 and Crash Bandicoot in my mind: A solid foundation. With that said, I can recommend the game to platforming fans, and the concept of a T-Rex looking to expand his reach is ripe for picking.

I can only hope like the aforementioned examples, a potential sequel to this game would take the concept and run with it, with crazier worlds and more varied and useful Hand upgrades to Borti. The concept has a lot of promise.

If you want to see the game in action, we have a forty minute stream below:

Thanks for reading everyone, and don’t forget to share what you think of on social media or try it out for yourself, on Steam or Nintendo Switch. Until next time, Happy Gaming!

Impressions: Paladins (Nintendo Switch)

Paladins manages to be a fun game on the surface and in gameplay, but it has a few steep cliffs.

Paladins is an interesting release on Switch

Paladins went free to play on Switch so we got a chance to try it out!

Paladins is an interesting title. A Hero Shooter with various modes and teams of 5 battling it out for supremacy. Each character is unique, each mode offers new challenges.

There are daily rewards, levelling up both your characters to unlock new skills and your general account for rewards. It’s all very progression based.

Which is exactly why this is a free to play game.

 

How Does It Look?

Paladins looks fantastic on the system

Paladins looks mighty clean on Switch

Paladins looks good on Switch. Nothing about it feels off, though the dynamic resolution can be very obvious in high density moments, but everything is smooth and fluid.

There are a variety of HUD options and placements, cursors and more. The UI is very customisable with one caveat.

As health bars of allies show up a “Sickly Green” when impacted with a status ailment, and enemies are red…a colour blind mode would have been very helpful!

 

How Does It Play?

Some of the load times are a bit extreme

Paladins can at times take a good while to get going however.

The gameplay itself is fairly simple, divided into 3 modes. Team Deathmatch where you compete to get the most kills, Siege where you battle to capture a point and then escort a payload to the enemy base, 1 point for each action, first to 4 wins.

Finally there is a standard Control mode, where you occupy a marked space and accumulate 400 points to win, fighting off the other team to do so.

These modes are all good fun, however the Siege mode lasts for far too long compared to the others, especially when wrestling for control.

Controls are snappy and responsive, and nothing feels out of reach. Interestingly you can get battle buffs by performing well during matches, earning credits to spend for that match. This is best done while respawning of course but it keeps things dynamic and allows you to adapt.

Of course this all comes with a downside: Load Times. Loading can take a while and especially getting into a match. It’s nothing major but for something on a console known for being snappy, this is a bit surprising.

Stage variety also seems a bit light, but that could just be bad luck during matchmaking. It’s hard to tell.

 

Let’s Talk Progression

Sometimes simplicity is best.

Paladins is an absolute behemoth of monetisation, and it’s confusing.

Progression in Paladins is strange. You level up characters and unlock cards and new abilities for battles, clear daily challenges to earn Gold and maybe even Crystals…but getting more from the game is hard.

You have a very limited number of characters initially, and this makes choosing one difficult since the game doesn’t allow duplicates on a team. Further to this, finding the characters in the store is difficult, and expensive in terms of Gold, as they are buried amongst voice samples and outfits etc.

But most egregious is a Battle Pass, akin to Fortnite with challenges for rewards, that you pay for with Crystals, a Season Pass, that gives you all Battle Passes, and various chests of randomized items.

Crystals are the premium paid for currency and the sheer wealth of options for expanding what you can simply do in the game is insane. It’s a complicated and frankly worrying mess that so much is gated off, as the game is genuinely fun.

But if this seems like an issue, there is a Buy All option with the Founder’s Pack. For a fee you unlock everything and this is how the game initially launched. I would recommend that over the restrictive Free To Play release.

 

Overall?

Paladins is an excellent game marred by some weird choices for monetisation. It tries to accommodate every model known to the industry at once.

This is the biggest downfall of the game, as what is a very fun time is locked behind a grind and premium rewards.

If you want to see the game in action, we have a two hour stream below:

 

Thanks for reading everyone, and don’t forget to share what you think of Paladins on social media or try it out for yourself, it is free to start after all. Until next time, Happy Gaming!

Behind The Game Podcast – Ys VIII, Xbox Scarlett and more!

Our fifth podcast is now live! This edition includes the rumoured Xbox Scarlett!

Thoughts on comments from Nihon Falcom and reports on Xbox Scarlett being a streaming service! Mega Man X and Sonic Mania Plus! How many Nindies per week?!

Plus, hear what we have been playing this week. Then our thoughts on Octopath Traveler Sales and Ys VIII and more Nintendo Labo?!

Check it out below, and Happy Gaming! Remember to check up with us on Twitter and Discord!

NL Inklings Community: Our August 2018 Tournament Schedule!

It’s a new month which means new a new tournament! Well…two!

First up, last month was excellent with participation in our Splatoon 2 Tournament, but we are streamlining the process for making tournaments going forward. We are already working on establishing the September season, but first comes August, and some summer sports, like Tennis!

The structure of two tournaments per month remains. The first will always be Splatoon 2, and two weeks later we will hold a tournament for a different game.

In this case, we have the returning Splatoon 2 tournament…and a tournament for a popular but somewhat divisive title…

 

Splatoon 2 – NL Inklings: Brand Finale! (August 4 2018)!

Brand Finale is the latest NLI Tournament!

The NL Inklings: Brand Finale!

Organised by Shani and TheXReturns, we have the Brand Finale!

This tournament will see 4 teams sponsored by a brand from the game. You don’t need to use that brand exclusively, but you can always try!

This will be a standard tournament with teams of 4, assigned based on their ranks in the name of fairness, duking it out across all 5 modes. Bring your best weapons and gear for all 5 modes and rep your team sponsor!

This tournament takes place on August 4th at 5pm BST sharp!

Sign ups open on July 28th!

Rules will be published on July 30th!

Sign ups will be live until Wednesday August 1st!

 

Mario Tennis Aces – NL Inklings: Grand Slam! (August 18 2018)

The NLI Tournament for the end of August is Mario Tennis!

Mario Tennis Aces: Grand Slam!

Thanks to Golden for organising this one! In the works for a while, it’s Mario Tennis Aces for Nintendo Switch! This latest entry in a long running sporting spin-off series is the subject of our next tournament!

Full details will be worked out leading to the event, regarding modes and character selection, but this will all be revealed once the Brand Finale tournament has concluded!

This tournament takes place on August 18th at 5pm sharp!

Sign Ups will go live on August 6th!

Rules will be published on August 13th!

Sign Ups will close on August 15th!

 

The September Season?

 

The September tournament season will be a little different. Within the staff and organisers we will be deciding on the Splatoon 2 tournament as usual, and again, one other game. However, due to the scheduling there will be a whopping THREE tournaments!

So to help out, the Community will be deciding the two tournaments instead!

We want to start the planning phases on August 5th so get your votes in quick!

Simply vote below for your favourite!

 

That’s all for now. See you on the Splattlefield or on the court! NL Inklings out, Happy Gaming!

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (Nintendo Switch) | Review

Title: Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC, Nintendo Switch
Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: NIS America

Copy Provided By: Bought it with my own money!

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana

“Yeah, I Am AWESOME!”

 

If you’re wondering where I have been since my last article, this game is the sole culprit. Never since Xenoblade Chronicles X has a game grabbed my attention so thoroughly and kept me hooked from start to end over nearly 50 hours of playtime.

First I would be remiss to not mention the soundtrack. As I have been told is normal for Falcom titles, this game nails a mix of sombre, energetic, rock and orchestra at just the right moments. Such variety keeps the game from feeling stale and helps push it’s identity as an adventure first and foremost.

Below are two examples of this varied soundtrack: The Theme of Dana, and the theme for the first area of the game proper.

 

Story of Ys VIII?

In terms of plot, Ys VIII is relatively simple. What you get is a very personal story, around a group of castaways on an island simply trying to survive and escape, before the greater mystery unveils itself and the two segue into each other very well. The star of the show isn’t the overarching plot lines, which do keep you guessing, but the Castaway Village.

Every character in your party of 6, or any of the people you rescue, and wholly unique. Some are snobbish aristocrats. Some are military men with a more artistic side. One is an insufferable artist. This clashing of characters and ultimate teamwork is incredibly satisfying to watch as almost everyone accepts that they are kindred spirits despite their backgrounds.

You spend a lot of time learning about them, via the timed side quests you get, and gifts you can hand to them. This raises their approval, which improves how you do in the Raid defense missions and Hunting missions. Maxing out Approval nets you a fully voiced heart to heart conversation with the character in question too, revealing more about the small but varied cast.

Of course, raising approval, taking part in raids and hunts all raises the main character, Adol Christin’s, “Reputation”. With a high enough reputation stat by end game, you earn the best ending and bonus content.

Some typos do litter the story.

Sometimes the text in Ys VIII can be a funny read though. But this is rare.

How Is The Gameplay?

Ys VIII is an Action RPG. You use Y to switch between your active party members at any time, which is handy for enemies that require a certain weapon type.

This kind of dynamic means you will never be short on health, and battles can be quick or slow depending on the volume of enemies and how you approach them. Using charged attacks lets you use Special Skills, which level up independently of characters and have various effects such as counters, ranged attacks, Area of Effects and more. 4 can be assigned and swapped out at any time, just like party members.

Bosses are also a highlight, a range of impressive beasts to take on that all require different strategies.

Bosses in this game can be imposing.

Bosses in Ys VIII can range from small to gargantuan.

Combat is incredibly fluid and frantic, and with status effects and plenty of customisation the game never feels stale, in even in the more restricted Dungeons, where you want to craft meals and bring medicine to help along.

Characters also have gear to equip. These impact stats via one body piece and one arm piece, with two accessories. Further, the Switch release comes with all included DLC costumes for some visual variety.

 

Progression?

Adventure Gear is an excellent feature that assists in what is a Metroidvania style structure. Each area connects to another by either immovable blockade that requires rescuing castaways, or Adventure Gear that is found as you progress such as a Double Jump.

These always come right as you start to feel restricted, and exploring previous areas leads to more items, gear and Castaways. This constant loop of exploring, reward and crafting items, weapons and more, leads to a very satisfying experience.

Of course, side quests are aplenty and do run on a time limit, so a complaint is that you can potentially miss them. Same with raids, that attack Castaway Village periodically, diverting from your current task, though you can fast travel. Side Quests and Raids are essential to the best ending of course.

Ys VIII never stops giving you things to do.

There is always something new to do and see.

 

What About The Post Game?

 

Ys VIII has a surprisingly length post game. There are several super bosses and one very, very, VERY large dungeon to clear that nets you plenty of gear, including a reward of party size adjustment and adding different weapon types to a single character.

All this can then be carried over the New Game Plus, and there is even a Time Attack mode. Plus, plenty of Raids and Hunts come up at the end of the game as well. You won’t be left wanting with this title.

Even completing the map gets you rewards for every 10% so simply walking around is a reward in of itself. This is a game that gives you what you need when you need it and lets you make your own path, and rewards you.

 

Any Negatives?

 

To be frank, this game isn’t the most impressive, being a Vita title originally. This is evident in some shapes and objects, as well as texture work. Passable, but it does look better in handheld mode. The game also did crash once or twice, but that doesn’t detract from my experience due to very frequent autosaves.

The fact you can miss quests is perhaps the biggest gameplay flaw. But, with frequent trips that you make to the Village anyway, you likely won’t miss them if you are diligent!

I suppose there are the odd graphical quirks as well. Some are incredibly hard to replicate, so the frequency is uncertain, but it never detracted from the experience.

Sometimes the game...acts strange.

Feeling okay there Hummel?

This is my final takeaway from this game. The odd quirks and errors in text are by no means a detraction from the game. The gameplay is exceptionally solid, the game is rewarding, and most of all Ys VIII never slows down. There is always somewhere new to see.

 

To Conclude?

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is an entry in a franchise I am ashamed to say didn’t catch my eye until Nintendo shoved it in my face earlier this year. I see this sentiment from a lot of people in all honesty, so the new light should push the series to new heights. It absolutely deserves it.

Ys VIII on Switch, for all it’s technical snags and weird text, is excellent. Simply an outstanding Action RPG well worth your time playing and enjoying.

I don’t say this lightly, but Ys VIII is my favourite game of 2018 thus far. That surely speaks for itself.

 

Thanks for reading, and if you like, you can check out other articles on the site! Sorry I vanished because of this game… but exciting things are to come. See you all later and Happy Gaming!

Impressions: Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy on Switch

Crash Bandicoot on Nintendo Switch is a perfectly serviceable, graphically sound port. However, it has an air of laziness around it.

 

Crash Bandicoot on Nintendo Switch is perfectly fine. These remakes of the original trilogy comes over, gameplay intact from PS4.

Naturally the resolution is lower at 720p when docked, and lower in handheld mode. With this comes graphical downgrades. Some expected, like shadows and the fur textures being limited or removed. Some however, like reflective surfaces, are omitted entirely.

These missing aspects certainly stand out, even compared to the PS1 originals. It’s no deal breaker, but in certain stages like the future themed areas from Warped, lot of charm is lost. This was clearly in the name of smooth performance, as the game maintains a fairly constant 30fps.

Reflective surfaces are missing...for some reason.

Reflective surfaces are completely missing in the Crash Trilogy.

 

So What’s In The Box?

 

Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy is a collective remake of the original Crash titles. With this comes various improvements, notably to Crash Bandicoot (The Original), such as better game design choices. This includes making Gems easier to get, forgoing the No Deaths requirement outside of Colour Gems.

Not all changes are positive. The use of one unified physics scheme across all 3 games (Based on Crash 3) leads to conflict with level design in Crash 1 and 2. This is simply due to level design in a platformer being built around what the character can do, with Crash 1 and 2 at times simply not being built for Crash 3 controls.

Additionally, some vehicles control with unusual weight and slow turning that limits mobility, adding frustration to Crash 3.

Further, the DLC stages Stormy Ascent and Future Tense are included as standard alongside various Quality Improvements made since the initial PS4 release.

Ultimately, this is the definitive way to experience all 3 games. As the de facto portable experience, this release is excellent.

Crash on Switch is the de facto portable experience.

This is a very feature rich package!

 

It’s Not All Sunshine in Wumpa Island…

 

So let’s address the downsides of this port. First, as noted, it doesn’t look as good. I feel as though some cutbacks aren’t necessary but if it’s in the name of smooth performance, it’s agreeable.

Now we know this port only exists because of a sole engineer proving the game would run, on their own time. 

This lack of interest in even attempting to get the game running by the development staff hints at corporate apathy. There are Switch specific issues that hint at a lack of care on various parties.

Firstly, using any controller other than Joy-Con while docked, before undocking the system, leads to the game being unable to recognise the Joy-Con in Handheld mode. This means using a Pro Controller on your TV before swapping to handheld mode, means you need to reboot the game.

Further, swapping which wireless controller you are using, at least when undocked, leads to the same problem. The game doesn’t respond to swapping controllers or modes unless you use the Joy-Con.

Who holds responsibility for this we will never know. Is it Nintendo for not performing adequate checks during the Lotcheck process? Is it Toys For Bob, the team behind the port? We may never know, but Crash Bandicoot on Switch doesn’t support these basic aspects of the system.

 

So What Do We Think?

 

I am extremely mixed on this release. On one hand, the game is smooth, responsive and absolutely worth a purchase for fans. If you have another console, this becomes a tougher sell, but for a portable Crash experience, this is fantastic.

The catch is some cutbacks feel extreme, and the lack of Switch functionality including screen recording (though this may be tied to CPU usage by the game) and controller swapping leaves a sour taste.

This feels like the most basic of ports. Its solid, it’s a great game, but it doesn’t react to the basic functionality of the system. As noted, it’s like the port was rushed and not intended.

But that doesn’t deter that this is a great way to experience the game. If you can overlook the cutbacks and system specific issues, this is an absolute must for platformer fans.

 

That’s all for this Impressions piece! Crash is back (Again!) and we hope you have fun wumping from islands and through time. Let us know what you think on social media, and Happy Gaming!

NL Inklings Community: Our July 2018 Tournament Schedule!

It’s a new month which means new a new tournament! Well…two!

First up, last month was excellent with participation in our Splatoon 2 Tournament. The next one is already planned and sign ups are underway on Discord right now!

Of course, we want to keep going and creating bigger and better events. The structure of two tournaments per month remains. The first will always be Splatoon 2, and two weeks later we will hold a tournament for a different game.

In this case, we have the returning Splatoon 2 tournament…and a tournament for a title by popular demand!

 

Splatoon 2 – NL Inklings: Splashdown! (July 7 2018)!

This is a standard NL Inklings Tournament for Splatoon 2!

The NL Inklings July 2018 Splashdown!

Like the name? I just made it up on the spot!

This will be a standard tournament with teams of 4, assigned based on their ranks in the name of fairness, duking it out across all 5 modes. Bring your best weapons and gear for all 5 modes and make a big Splashdown!

This tournament takes place on July 7th at 5pm BST sharp!

Sign ups will be live until Wednesday July 4th!

 

ARMS – NL Inklings: Spring Into The Ring! (July 21 2018)

 

It's an ARMS tournament by popular demand!

ARMS: Spring Into The Ring Tournament!

That’s right! By sheer popular demand, it’s ARMS for Nintendo Switch! This small but lovable fighting game get’s its chance to shine in the NL Inklings sphere this month!

Full details will be worked out over the coming fortnight, but rest assured all control styles will be allowed.

This tournament takes place on July 21st at 5pm sharp!

Sign Ups will go live on Saturday July 7th and end on Wednesday July 18th!

 

That’s all for now. See you on the battlefield or in the ring! NL Inklings out, Happy Gaming!

Nintendo Switch eShop – UK Sales Charts (24/06/2018)

With Mario Tennis out now, and the winding down of E3 sales, how are the UK Charts this week?

Numbers in brackets are previous positions based on: 17/06/2018 (Unless they haven’t moved) in the UK eShop

Can Mario Tennis Aces take the top spot?

Mario Tennis Aces debuted this week!

 

All Games Charts (Including Retail Releases)

 

1: Minecraft (NEW) – £19.99
2: Hollow Knight (NEW) (Down from 2nd) – £10.99
3: Mario Tennis Aces (NEW) – £49.99
4: Splatoon 2 (Up from 6th) – £49.99
5: Astro Bears Party (Down from 2nd) (80% OFF) – £0.89 (Usually £4.49)
6: Golf Story – £13.49
7: FIFA 18 (Down from 3rd) (67% OFF) – £18.14 (Usually £54.99)
8: Overcooked: Special Edition (Up from 10th) – £17.99
9: Rocket League (Down from 9th) – £15.00
10: Arcade Archives: Donkey Kong (Up from 14th) (NEW) – £6.29
11: Stardew Valley (Down from 4th) – £10.99
12: Paladins: Founder’s Pack (Down from 9th) (NEW) – £24.99
13: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Up from 21st) – £59.99
14: Ultra Street Fighter 2: The Final Challengerss (Up from not Charting!) – £34.99
15: Football Manager Touch 2018 (Up from 17th) (33% OFF) – £20.09 (Usually £29.99)

16: Darkest Dungeon (Up from 23rd) £17.99
17: Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn (Down from 5th) – £17.99
18: Arcade Archives: Vs Super Mario Bros (Down from 15th) – £6.29
19: Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Down from 13th) – £8.99
20: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Up from 22nd) – £49.99
21: Resident Evil Revelations (Up from 26th) – £15.99
22: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Down from 19th) – £49.99
23: The Sexy Brutale (Down from 18th) – £17.99
24: Sonic Mania (Up from 28th!) – £15.99
25: Wizard of Legend (Down from 16th) – £13.99
26: Robonauts (Up from not Charting!) (80% OFF) – £2.69 (Usually £13.49)
27: Super Mario Odyssey (Up from not Charting!) – £49.99
28: Violett (Up from not Charting!(80% OFF) – £1.79 (Usually £8.99)
29: Resident Evil Revelations 2 (Up from not Charting!) – £19.99
30: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (Up from not Charting!) – £49.99

 

Download Exclusive Charts

 

1: Hollow Knight (NEW) – £10.99
2: Astro Bears Party (80% OFF) – £0.89 (Usually £4.49)
3: Golf Story (Up from 5th) – £13.49
4: Arcade Archives: Donkey Kong (NEW) – £6.29
5: Stardew Valley (Down from 3rd) – £10.99
6: Paladins: Founders Pack (NEW) – £24.99
7: Football Manager Touch 2018 (Up from 12th) (33% OFF) – £20.09 (Usually £29.99)
8: Darkest Dungeon (Up from 15th) – £17.99
9: Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn (Down from 4th) – £17.99
10: Arcade Archives: Vs Super Mario Bros – £6.29
11:Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Down from 8th) – £8.99
12: Resident Evil: Revelations (Up from 17th)£15.99
13: The Sexy Brutale£17.99
14: Sonic Mania (Up from 19th) – £15.99
15: Wizard of Legend (Down from 11th)– £13.99

16: Robonauts (Up from 21st) (80% OFF) – £2.69 (Usually £13.49)
17: Violett (Up from not Charting!) (80% OFF) – £1.79 (Usually £8.99)
18: Resident Evil: Revelations 2 (Up from 24th) – £19.99
19: Celeste (Up from 20th) – £17.99
20: The Sparkle 2 Evo (Up from not Charting!) (80% OFF) – £0.89 (Usually £4.49)
21: West of Loathing (Down from 16th) – £9.00
22: Snipperclips: Cut It Out, Together! (Up from 27th) – £17.99
23: Uno (Up from not Charting!) (30% OFF) – £5.59 (Usually £7.99)
24: Nine Parchments (Up from 30th) – £17.99
25: Subsurface Circular (Up from 28th) (20% OFF) – £3.83 (Usually £4.79)
26: Jackbox Party Pack 3 (Up from not Charting!) – £20.03
27: Ikaruga (Down from 18th) – £13.49
28: I Am Setsuna (Up from not Charting!) (50% OFF) – £14.99 (Usually £29.99)
29: OwlBoy (Up from not Charting!) (30% OFF) – £13.29 (Usually £18.99)
30: Kamiko (Up from not Charting!) (40% OFF) – £2.69 (Usually £4.49)

 

 

UK eShop Analysis

So this has become a bit of a mess to read. First of note – Mario Tennis came in behind Hollow Knight and the new update for Minecraft.

Secondly, most movements are simply readjustments based on sales. The stories are the return of Mario + Rabbids and Mario Odyssey, alongside some games on sales in the lower ends of the charts. Interesting, Ultra Street Fighter 2 has reappeared despite a better value Street Fighter Collection being available.

In the Download Exclusives charts, things remain mostly the same in order, minus retail titles, until the lower ends, as usual. Here we see resurgence from Kamiko, OwlBoy and I Am Setsuna, all on sale.

The real story is the domination of sales once again, with new sales filling the lower charts and old sales leaving lingering effects.

 

Next week we will see the three-way battle between Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana and Crash Bandicoot: N. Sane Trilogy! Happy Gaming!

Behind The Game Podcast – E3 2018, Fortnite, Cross Play and More!

Our fourth podcast is now live! This edition includes the reveal of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate!

Thoughts on Fortnite! Cross-Platform Play shenanigans and Mega Man 11 absolutely not coming to Europe at retail too! Everyone is Here in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate!

Plus, hear what we have been playing this week. Then our thoughts on E3 2018 and Sony does….what to your Epic Games account?!

Check it out below, and Happy Gaming! Remember to check up with us on Twitter and Discord!

 

Nintendo Switch eShop – UK Sales Charts (17/06/2018)

With E3 now over, games like Hollow Knight released and a whole plethora of sales, how are the UK Charts this week?

Numbers in brackets are previous positions based on: 03/06/2018 (Unless they haven’t moved) in the UK eShop

The UK Charts received a slew of new games over E3.

Fortnite: Battle Royale launched on Nintendo Switch this week.

Note, the charts now have TWO categories: Games also at retail, and eShop exclusives. Both will be covered here, and there are now 30 games per list. However, as the Download Exclusives chart is new, there will be no chart placement shifts this week.

 

All Games Charts (Including Retail Releases)

 

1: Hollow Knight (NEW) – £10.99
2: Astro Bears Party (Up from not Charting!) (80% OFF) – £0.89 (Usually £4.49)
3: FIFA 18 (Down from 1st) (67% OFF) – £18.14 (Usually £54.99)
4: Stardew Valley (Down from 2nd) – £10.99
5: Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn (NEW) – £17.99
6: Splatoon 2 (Up from not Charting!) (33% OFF) – £33.49 (Usually £49.99)
7: Golf Story (Up from not Charting) (34% OFF) – £8.90 (Usually £13.49)
8: Rocket League (Up from 11th) (25% OFF) – £11.25 (Usually £15.00)
9: Paladins: Founders Pack (NEW) – £24.99
10: Overcooked: Special Edition (Up from not Charting!) (40% OFF) – £10.79 (Usually £17.99)
11: Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition (Down from 6th) – £19.99
12: Mario Tennis Aces (Pre-Order) – £49.99
13: Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (Down from 3rd) – £8.99
14: Arcade Archives: Donkey Kong (NEW) – £6.29
15: Arcade Archives: Vs Super Mario Bros (Down from 12th) – £6.29

16: Wizard of Legend (Down from 4th) – £13.99
17: Football Manager Touch 2018 (Up from not Charting!) (33% OFF) – £20.09 (Usually £29.99)
18: The Sexy Brutale (Up from not Charting!) (50% OFF) – £8.99 (Usually £17.99)
19: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Down from 9th) – £49.99
20: Mecho Tales (Up from not Charting!) – £7.49
21: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Up from not Charting!) (25% OFF) – £44.99 (Usually £59.99)
22: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Up from not Charting!) – £49.99
23: Darkest Dungeon (Up from not Charting!) (25% OFF) – £13.49 (Usually £17.99)
24: West of Loathing (Up from not Charting!) – £9.00
25: Yoku’s Island Express (Up from not Charting!) – £15.99
26: Resident Evil: Revelations (Up from not Charting!) (25% OFF) – £11.99 (Usually £15.99)
27: Ikaruga (Down from 10th) – £13.49
28: Sonic Mania (Up from not Charting!) – £15.99
29: Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (Down from 8th) – £49.99
30: Celeste (Up from not Charting!) – £17.99

 

Download Exclusive Charts

 

1: Hollow Knight (NEW) – £10.99
2: Astro Bears Party (80% OFF) – £0.89 (Usually £4.49)
3: Stardew Valley – £18.14 (Usually £54.99)
4: Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn (NEW) – £17.99
5: Golf Story (34% OFF) – £8.90 (Usually £13.49)
6: Paladins: Founders Pack (NEW) – £24.99
7: Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition – £19.99
8: Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon – £8.99
9: Arcade Archives: Donkey Kong (NEW) – £6.29
10: Arcade Archives: Vs Super Mario Bros – £6.29
11: Wizard of Legend – £13.99
12: Football Manager Touch 2018 (33% OFF) – £20.09 (Usually £29.99)
13: The Sexy Brutale (50% OFF) – £8.99 (Usually £17.99)
14: Mecho Tales – £7.49
15: Darkest Dungeon (25% OFF) – £13.49 (Usually £17.99)

16: West of Loathing – £9.00
17: Resident Evil: Revelations (25% OFF) – £11.99 (Usually £15.99)
18: Ikaruga – £13.49
19: Sonic Mania – £15.99
20: Celeste – £17.99
21: Robonauts (80% OFF) – £2.69 (Usually £13.49)
22: ICEY – £7.59
23: Plague Road – £11.99
24: Resident Evil: Revelations 2 (28% OFF) – £14.39 (Usually £19.99)
25: Legendary Eleven (NEW) (11% OFF) – £7.99 (Usually £8.99)
26: Hollow – £17.99
27: Snipperclips: Cut It Out, Together! – £17.99
28: Subsurface Circular (20% OFF) – £3.83 (Usually £4.79)
29: SteamWorld Dig 2 – £14.99
30: Nine Parchments (50% OFF) – £8.99 (Usually £17.99)

 

 

UK eShop Analysis

So this has become a bit of a mess to read. First of note – Sushi Striker is nowhere to be seen.

Secondly, E3 sales have propelled games right up the charts, disrupting the usual flow. Paladins has had a successful launch and due to the new nature of the charts we can see many first party titles filling out lower areas of the charts.

Interestingly, the pre-load for Mario Tennis Aces is charting. Indie gem Hollow Knight has taken the top spot.

In the Download Exclusives charts, things remain mostly the same in order, minus retail titles, until the lower ends, where Snipperclips, Hollow, and more reside. This added exposure will likely help sales along in future.

The real story is the domination of sales though. Interesting, Free To Play titles like Pokemon Quest, Fortnite and Fallout Shelter aren’t included here.

 

Next week we will see if Mario Tennis Aces can prove a hit, and if any other classics reappear in sudden sales or pre-loads! Happy Gaming!

Sony Is “For The Players”, and Now Incredibly Hostile!

Sony has become a bit of a standout in the industry, with a new display of hostility towards developers bringing fresh outrage…

Sony, Sony please stop being hostile.

Time to bring this up again…

Sony has a history of pro-consumerism. The PS4 is built upon this logic. Just like I have noted in the past however, it’s not holding up. It only took a few years to break down into hostility.

Cross Platform What?

Hostility prevents the PS4 from joining in

This is the future?

Hop back to E3 2017 for a moment.

Unfortunately it’s a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders, and I’m not going to get into the detail of that on this particular instance. And I can see your eyes rolling.

We’ve got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base

Everybody has to take their own decisions. We’ll do that. Like I say, we have no philosophical stance against cross-play at all.

That said, to my knowledge, there is no live conversation ongoing at the moment.

Source (Seriously read it all, it is pure gold!)

This is how Sony’s Jim Ryan responded to Eurogamer about not allowing cross-platform play with other consoles in both Rocket League and Minecraft. No one consistent answer was given.

Yeah this isn’t a good look but wait, there is now more.

This was based, we assumed, on fear, and wanting to keep their install base. A company that built a base on pro-consumer moves in the wake of the Xbox One now does the things they said they wouldn’t.

Now however, we see what it is truly based on.

 

Sony Is Acting on Pure Hostility

Fortnite is blocked to PS4. Not a good look.

Do you like Fortnite? Got some bad news…

Fortnite just released on the Nintendo Switch! This would be great news. Turns out, if your Epic Games account has ever touched a PS4, that account can now never be used on Xbox One or Nintendo Switch. No, deleting the link doesn’t work. Once it’s been there, it’s locked away forever.

The same is true in reverse. If you link an account to Switch or Xbox, it won’t work on PS4. This is a huge problem, as Fortnite links progress to your Epic account, which we should stress is a third-party account.

Many PS4 users have found this to be an issue, wanting to play on Switch. This has gone beyond simply not allowing play between systems. This is now wrestling a third-party account and wanting you to only play on PS4.

This is hostility towards other systems. They want to be the only place you ever play games, and they are doing their damnedest to keep their users to them, by inconveniencing them going elsewhere.

It Makes Business Sense…Briefly

Hostility will end the PS4's Dominance it would seem.

The Best Place to Play No Longer

So the constant lies about why they don’t want cross-platform play. The newfound hostility towards the other systems. This all stinks of what we know now as “Arrogant Sony”. Remember the PS3 launch? Top of the world, can do no wrong, and it backfired. They believed consumers had no choice in who they went to, they thought they were on top of the world. Then they fell.

Now the PS4 bounces back, pro-consumer for all of what seemed like 20 minutes. Sure, they want to keep their lead, but now, what benefit is there to playing third-party games on a PS4?

On PC, you get mods. Xbox One X, you get the best console performance. Switch, you get portability. On PS4, you get tied to the system with a brick around your ankles.

Across all of the above, except PS4 of course, you can all talk, play against or with each other in games. In Fortnite, your progress even carries over. This is the future. Developers want it. Epic Games wants it. But the dinosaur that is Sony will not let it happen.

They want control. But the power is with the players now more than ever.

 

So What Do We Do?

 

Some believe the one with the largest install base has nothing to gain. But they do. In the (Increasingly likely if you pay attention) scenario where the PS5 launches and falls behind the next Xbox, these past practices will have caused people to move away. Sure, it’s fine now, but people don’t forget. Especially now the biggest game in the world is the subject.

The answer is simple, play where you want, but remember that the noise will only grow as more and more games adopt this approach. There will be a time where they have to allow it. If not, the mantra of the PlayStation falls apart at the seems.

This is more than Microsoft taking shots at Sony. This is consumers not being treated fairly, and developers not being given the freedoms they deserve.

 

Thanks for reading, and this is an issue that now more than ever needs to be scrutinised. Perhaps the future will change things, but Sony is in a position of power to abuse now…but anyway, go boot up Fortnite and play with whoever YOU want! Happy Gaming!

Behind The Game Podcast – Battlefield V, Pokemon, Mega Man and more!

Our third podcast is now live! This edition includes the controversy around Battlefield!

Thoughts on Battlefield V vs Call of Duty! Pokemon Let’s Go and Mega Man 11 not coming to Europe at retail too!

Plus, hear what we have been playing this week. Then our thoughts on some pre-E3 reveals and the comments about…a new portable PlayStation?

 

Check it out below, and Happy Gaming! Remember to check up with us on Twitter and Discord!

Nintendo Switch eShop – UK Sales Charts (03/06/2018)

With FIFA 18 on a world cup sale, and Mega Man still in the mind share, how are the UK charts faring this week?

Numbers in brackets are previous positions based on: 27/05/2018 (Unless they haven’t moved) in the UK eShop

FIFA 18 has a new mode and sale for the World Cup

FIFA 18’s World Cup Mode launched last week, alongside a sale.

 

1: FIFA 18 (67% OFF) (Up from 4th) – £18.14 (Usually £54.99)
2: Stardew Valley (Down from 1st) – £10.99
3: Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (NEW) (Up from 8th) – £8.99
4: Wizard of Legend (Down from 2nd) – £13.99
5: 60 Seconds (Up from 10th) – £8.50
6: Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition – £19.99
7: Mega Man Legacy Collection (NEW) (Up from 9th) – £11.99
8: Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (Down from 3rd) – £49.99
9: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Down from 7th) – £49.99
10: Ikaruga (NEW) – £13.49
11: Rocket League (Up from 12th) – £15.04
12: Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. (Up from 14th) – £6.29
13: Mega Man Legacy Collection 2 (NEW) (Up from not Charting!) – £11.99
14: SteamWorld Dig 2 (25% OFF) (Up from not Charting!) – £11.24 (Usually £14.99)
15: Hollow (75% OFF) (Up from not Charting!) – £4.49 (Usually £17.99)

 

UK eShop Analysis

 

Only one truly new chart entry this week in Ikaruga. The cult classic appears to have resonated with fans in the UK. Elsewhere all other new titles are from the prior week.

Mega Man Legacy Collection climbs again, and the second Collection, though less popular, has appeared in the lower reaches below mainstays Rocket League and Arcade Archives.

At the lower end of the chart we see Hollow and SteamWorld Dig 2 appearing yet again on sale. The power of sales is evident each week in the UK.

60 Seconds is fresh out of sale, and Wizard of Legend will likely begin a descent now that the new period has passed. Of course Bloodstained shot up the charts, showing hunger for old-school Castlevania action.

Finally, the first party titles hold strong in the middle with both Hyrule Warriors and Donkey Kong steady long after launch.

The main story though is the dropped price for FIFA 18 proving that at the right price, the Switch version will sell. It’ll likely stay there for as long as the sale lasts.

 

Next week we will see if Sushi Striker can prove a hit, and if any other classics reappear in pre-E3 sales! Happy Gaming!

Impressions – Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition

Is Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition the truly definitive experience?

Fresh on the Nintendo Switch is the Wii U cross-over between the Legend of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors. Better described as a mix of Dynasty Warriors with Zelda aesthetics, items and a few mechanics, it is undeniably a Warriors game through and through. So how does Hyrule Warriors fare?

Does Hyrule Warriors live up to it's Wii U and 3DS counterparts?

Hyrule Warriors returns, with all the trappings of a Warriors experience.

That will be the first hurdle for any player. Do you like Warriors titles? If not, and cleaving through thousands of enemies per battle isn’t your thing, then this game will immediately turn you off.

This is of course the bulk of the gameplay. Moving from keep to keep, reacting to real-time objectives and changing win or loss conditions. There is plenty of strategy and running around. It’s worth remembering that your own actions matter more than any others. Your army doesn’t help much.

This makes the game fairly chaotic. Indeed it can be quite a hurdle and losses can sneak up alarmingly fast. Compounding this is the mini-map, which highlights changing objectives but actually catching where they are amongst all the information on-screen can be difficult. Pausing may be necessary, but this slows the pace of what should be a hectic battlefield.

How does Hyrule Warriors play?

This is one of the premier questions surrounding Hyrule Warriors. The game was 720p with a sub-30 frame rate on Wii U. On 3DS it was naturally hampered. The volume of enemies, performance and look of the game just didn’t justify the purchase, despite the expanded content.

Sometimes the game can get a bit messy...

Imagine the frame rate in a moment like this.

On Nintendo Switch, the game runs at a native 1080p, granted with no real improvements otherwise. It certainly runs better, well above 30 frames per second, but a constant 60 isn’t around. However, the instability is preferable to sub-30. The drops were only noticeable in intense situations, though they are ever-present to some degree.

In handheld mode then, the game maintains a clear and crisp image. What doesn’t carry over is performance as it is inferior to the docked experience. At a glance it looks about as unstable as the Wii U release. Of course in handheld mode, the system feels fine when playing. There were no gripes with controls here, though a Pro Controller did prove best when docked due to the fast button presses required.

This is the best performing version of the game, but it does feel lacking in some respects.

 

So what about content?

This is the single most alluring point in favour of this game. If you consider the performance a minor annoyance rather than a deal breaker, and don’t find Warriors titles monotonous, you will get value for money.

Combining all the Wii U content with the extra story and modes from the 3DS release with all the DLC and some new quality of life features makes a very robust package. All the story content is intact and the My Fairy mode transitions as well. All the DLC Adventure maps, where you cross 8-bit maps from various games clearing challenges, return as well.

You won't be putting this mode down anytime soon.

Hyrule Warriors is absolute bursting with things to do.

There are countless hours to be had here, and helping this is the small improvements made to the game. Most notably, some stages and missions will feature Owl Statues which once activated, act as warp points for fast travel. In this release, that allows you to mitigate running across maps in time sensitive moments. A much-needed feature in my opinion.

Another nice addition (From the 3DS release) is character swapping. Some missions will let you take in up to 4 warriors at once, and you can swap between them. This allows you to be at multiple places at once. Again, a much-needed feature that makes some challenges manageable compared to the Wii U iteration. Of course, you can also have them be controlled via AI using a Command prompt in the menu if you need them moving remotely.

Added to the Adventure Modes is the ability to buy Item Cards you have already owned for a hefty fee. This simply cuts down on having to replay missions, though any with two Gold Skulltulas still requires a second run.

 

Lots To Unlock!

There is a swath of things to unlock. Gold Skulltulas for meeting certain requirements. Heart pieces and containers for each character. Weapons, skill trees to upgrade, materials from enemies. Costumes, more characters, more things to buy and upgrade. Hyrule Warriors is a very rewarding game. Every action gives you something usable.

However, those actions will be very repetitive across the many maps and modes. Sure the objectives can change, missions can be very dynamic and change at a whim, but the process remains the same. In the moments the game presents quiz battles or special giant boss challenges, it’s a breath of fresh air.

 

How does Hyrule fit into this?

The Zelda influence is more than a coat of paint

Imagine this scenario in a proper Zelda title…

The Legend of Zelda is more than a skin for this game. Items to be used in battle to expose weak points or counter attack are ripped from the franchise. Several musical tracks and locations are as well. The items in question are used almost exclusively for giant bosses or smaller enemies, but rarely you can see situations to use them in movement. This is hardly necessary however.

Naturally, the giant bosses are a highlight. They do come across as more time wasters than challenges though, often being a distraction on a battlefield than a real challenge.

Perhaps this is a good time to mention the game can in fact be quite challenging. You can level up characters with Rupees should you not have time to grind. Skill trees however, require items. Items you can only get from enemies. There is a constant feedback loop but it does get tiring.

One big problem is in Adventure modes, when a certain character is needed that you haven’t touched. Better get the Rupees and items out to prepare them. It doesn’t take too long, but it can bog the pace of a good play session down.

That’s the other big hurdle with Hyrule Warriors. There will be a lot of grinding and most of it comes naturally but mixed with progressing simply being a process of repetition, it takes someone who loves Warriors to fully experience this game.

 

So, the Verdict?

How DO you enjoy this game?

There are several “Keys” to enjoying Hyrule Warriors.

This game ultimately has two main hurdles. The first is whether you like Dynasty Warriors. The repetitive gameplay is fine in short bursts, but if it doesn’t engage you, there is no point.

Secondly, be prepared to grind. There will be many times your progress feels stunted but keep at it. If performance drops don’t hamper your experience in any way and this game seems like it may be for you, then you will be in for a full experience.

Just don’t play it as much as I did in the first week. It’s fun but exhausting.

Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition gets our recommendation, if you’re willing to overlook repetition.

 

 

Thanks for reading our Impressions of Hyrule Warriors! Stay tuned for more impressions in the future, and even reviews! Of course as always, Happy Gaming!

Nintendo Switch eShop – UK Sales Charts (27/05/2018)

With Hyrule Warriors a week behind us, and Mega Man freshly released, how are the UK charts faring this week?

Numbers in brackets are previous positions based on: 20/05/2018 (Unless they haven’t moved) in the UK eShop

Can Mega Man climb the UK eShop charts?

The Mega Man Legacy Collections released only on the UK eShop in the region.

1: Stardew Valley – £10.99
2: Wizard of Legend (NEW) (Up from 8th) – £13.99
3: Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (NEW) (Up from 5th) – £49.99
4: FIFA 18 (67% OFF) (Up from not Charting!) – £18.14 (Usually £54.99)
5: WonderBoy: The Dragon’s Trap (Up from 9th) – £17.99
6: Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition – £19.99
7: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Down from 2nd) – £49.99
8: Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (NEW) – £8.99
9: Mega Man Legacy Collection (NEW) – £11.99
10: 60 Seconds (75% OFF) (Up from not charting!) – £2.12 (Usually £8.50)
11: Death Road to Canada (Down from 3rd) – £11.99
12: Rocket League (Down from 7th) – £15.04
13: Timber Man Vs. (Down from 3rd) – £1.79
14: Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. (Down from 11th) – £6.29
15: Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (NEW) – £22.99

 

UK eShop Analysis

 

Interesting Hyrule Warriors shot up digitally but can’t claim the top from Stardew Valley. The game is very limited at retailers such as Amazon, so this will persuade many to go digitally. Donkey Kong also begins it’s fall.

Timber Man falls fresh out of sale, and Rocket League continues to be pushed down by new releases as does Arcade Archives. Death Road to Canada fell sharply after the sale ended there too.

Speaking of sales, 60 Seconds appeared in the charts for the first time. Wizard of Legend has made a name for itself as well, climbing fast. WonderBoy also maintains a high spot after leaving a sale.

New release really dominate this week. Bloodstained and Mega Man both fill the middle of the charts, but Legacy Collection 2 is nowhere to be seen. Maybe it will appear in coming weeks?

The real story is the sale on FIFA 18 (Now being sold for a higher price I must stress!) has catapulted it once again up the charts. Yes, Runner 3 is nowhere to be seen.

 

Next week we will see if any indies can prove powerful forces on the storefront, and if Mega Man can get the second collection on the board. Maybe Hyrule Warriors will even hit number one? Happy Gaming!

E3 2018 – Our Expectations and Plans!

E3 2018 is just around the corner on June 9th, but what can we expect from each show, and will it be good?

E3 kicks off on June 9th with the live presentations!

E3 2018 begins June 9th!

Firstly however, we need to cover our E3 2018 plans! In our Discord community we have a channel with the full schedule and discussion of E3. Secondly, we will be posting pre and post E3 thoughts in our bi-weekly podcast both before and after E3. We may even live-react to a few of the events, but more on that at a later date!

So what can we expect from E3? Well it’s hard to say. Overall it feels like a potentially solid show with few standouts, so let’s see why.

 

EA – June 9th – 11am PT // 2pm ET // 7pm BST // 4am AEST (10th)

 

EA Conferences typically put people to sleep.

Can you say boring? It’s EA at a press conference!

EA is first to bat at the show this year, and that’s probably a good thing. Where EA typically stumbles is in engagement. A very corporate show mixed with online personalities and a lack of really exciting and unexpected news leaves a lot to be desired.

When talking about games, outside of a boring presence, we know Battlefield V is confirmed to appear. Anthem is also a very likely shoe in given its recent delay to 2019. No doubt Star Wars will be teased in some capacity as well after Battlefront II…launched last year.

Oh and of course, FIFA 19, Madden 19 and so on. Maybe some more Need for Speed, it’s hard to say. Of course the jury is still out on if the Nintendo Switch will make an appearance for any of these games after previous comments.

Verdict – A shallow but serviceable event. Just bring coffee.

Microsoft – June 10th – 1pm PT // 4pm ET // 9pm BST // 6am AEST (11th)

Does Microsoft finally have something to show for the Xbox One?

Will Microsoft repeat the mistakes of E3’s past?

Microsoft is in the worst position heading into this E3. After launching Game Pass and seeing its latest first party titles falter, there is only one known first party release in the pipeline. Crackdown 3 was meant to release last year but got delayed to 2018, and this E3 would mark 5 years since it was revealed. Hopefully it gets a date and sticks it this time.

Of course, Microsoft needs more than that. In what is billed as their biggest show ever, and what is now confirmed to be 2 hours in length, they need to come out swinging. Any less, and the Xbox One misses its final chance at meaningful exclusive software. Phil Spencer has been talking a big game for years, but yet to show anything.

Forza Horizon 4 is a lock in for this year, but beyond that maybe a fix to the Halo Collection at long last, 4 years after it launched? Gears of War? Maybe get a RARE IP back in action? There will at least be waves of indies. Microsoft really needs to swing and as this years wildcard, they may just do that. But any less than amazing and it will be time to write the system off.

Verdict – It better be good, but we simply can’t say. Prepare for disappointment.

 

Bethesda – June 10th – 6:30pm PT // 9:30pm ET // 2:30pm BST (11th) // 11:30am AEST (11th)

What big games will Bethesda bring?

Could we see the Elder Scrolls at E3?

Bethesda is planning a short but sweet conference again this year. No doubt they will feature a final push for Wolfenstein 2 on Switch as they did last year with Skyrim. Hey, maybe they can announce a Fallout thing or something?

Of course, RAGE 2 is showing up, a now confirmed and very different game to the original. DOOM 2 is also rumoured (And welcomed!) but it may be a year too soon. Of course The Elder Scrolls is on everyone’s minds now, but that’s not likely this year.

Starfield is very likely however. This mystery IP is due a reveal any time now, as we know nothing except it exists. If it proves a strong title, it could be a show stealer. The short but sweet nature of this show leads me to feel they don’t have much to announce however.

Verdict – It could be good, but there won’t be much quantity.

 

Square Enix – June 11th – 10am PT // 1pm EDT // 6pm BST // 3am AEST (12th)

 

Can Final Fantasy VII show up?

Is it time?

Square Enix is returning to E3! That could be amazing or absolutely horrifying.

No doubt we will get details on Final Fantasy XV’s announced 2019 DLC (Why?) and Kingdom Hearts 3 will get its release date at long last. Final Fantasy VII may show up in some form but don’t expect it.

The confirmed Avengers title will likely show for the first time. What this game can be is anyone’s guess but a new reveal would be excellent. Naturally Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Dragon Quest XI will feature.

Also expect Octopath Traveler and Dragon Quest Builders 2 to appear. One as a final push and the other to finally show the damn thing. Of course this is Square Enix, you can expect a random game or two for fun.

Verdict – Probably going to be the high point. Lots of games we know are coming and plenty surprises are possible.

 

Ubisoft – June 11th – 1pm PT // 4pm ET // 9pm BST // 6am AEST (12th)

Remember this horror?

Ubisoft had a good show last year. Can we see it again?

Ubisoft is in a unique position. Of course we will get updates on announced titles like Starlink and The Crew 2. No doubt they will also flaunt Beyond Good and Evil 2 as well, after a big reveal last year.

Watch Dogs 3 is expected, forming a new bi-yearly cycle with Assassins Creed, but no doubt DLC will appear for that. Their VR projects also took a bit of focus last year, so updates would be welcome.

What Ubisoft could show that is unexpected is a mystery. They likely won’t have another collaboration with Nintendo already, nor a new South Park title. This will most likely be an update on the known games and quantities moving forward.

Verdict – Solid but nothing stellar.

 

PlayStation – June 11th — 6pm PT // 9pm ET // 2am BST (12th) // 11am AEST (12th)

PS4 is still riding high.

How can PS4 wow and continue it’s dominance?

Learning from their mistakes of showing stuff years in advance and disappointing us at E3 2017 by repeating E3 2016, they announced their plans in advance.

Sony will be focusing on 4 main games, in what I suppose is a 4 act structure: Spider-Man, Death Stranding, Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us: Part 2. With the exception of Spider-Man, making its third appearance, these will all be gameplay reveals and maybe even release dates.

The question is why such a large push for Spider-Man when other games could do with the spotlight such as Dreams? Third party announcements like exclusive DLC, VR news and a few indies will break up the pacing between each big game, but the pace threatens to drag with already known quantities if they hold on them for too long.

PS4 is very much on autopilot now.

Verdict – Solid, but a bit repetitive and unremarkable.

 

Nintendo – June 12th – 9am PT // 12pm ET //5pm BST // 2am AEST (13th)

Can Nintendo wow again?

This could potentially be disastrous.

Nintendo has already stated one thing. Only 2018 titles will show here. That and their main event is only on Switch. 3DS announcements will come in Treehouse Live if any.

With that in mind….eh. This really does seem like it could be lacklustre. Only focusing on the upcoming 6 months of content feels risky, but with Fire Emblem and Yoshi due out this year, one of which we haven’t even seen yet, and a confirmed focus on Super Smash Bros. it can at least be solid. Add in Pokemon and hey it could be great.

But we all knew about those games anyway, some for well over a year at this time. Plus on the third-party front I don’t expect much. This will be the Smash and Fire Emblem show. If neither of those interest you, don’t expect much else. This could just be pessimism, but it feels like an unfortunately low-key second show for their new system.

Verdict – Potential great, if third parties show, and if the game selection is greater than anticipated. Most likely just average otherwise.

 

 

And that’s it. We will see how right we are on the money and if we can be pleasantly surprised after E3! What do you think we will see? As always Happy Gaming, and stay tuned to the NL Inklings community for our takes on the events!

Nintendo Switch eShop – UK Sales Charts (20/05/2018)

With the release of Hyrule Warriors, how has the UK eShop chart settled this week? Are the regulars still high? What about Donkey Kong?

Numbers in brackets are previous positions based on: 13/05/2018 (Unless they haven’t moved) in the UK eShop

Hyrule Warriors Definitive Editions has launched, but how does it fare on the UK eShop?

Hyrule Warriors Definitive Editions has launched, but how does it fare on the UK eShop?

 

1: Stardew Valley (Up from 2nd) – £10.99
2: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze – £49.99
3: Death Road To Canada (NEW) (20% OFF) (Up from 7th) – £9.59 (Usually £11.99)
4: Timber Man Vs. – £1.79
5: Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition (NEW) – £49.99
6: Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition (Down from 5th) – £19.99
7: Rocket League (Down from 3rd) – £15.04
8: Wizard of Legend (NEW) – £13.99
9: WonderBoy: The Dragon’s Trap (50% OFF) (Up from not charting!) – £8.99 (Usually £17.99)
10: Football Manager Touch 2018 (Down from 6th) – £29.99
11: Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. (Down from 8th) – £6.29
12: Raging Justice (NEW) – £9.99
13: Sonic Mania (Down from 9th) – £15.99
14: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Up from not charting!) – £49.99
15: Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles (NEW) – £22.99

UK eShop Analysis

 

This week has proven interesting. Hyrule Warriors didn’t immediately hit the top of the charts like Donkey Kong did, but is steadily climbing.

Of note though, is how with Stardew Valley at the summit the other usual suspects are displaced throughout the chart, as low as 10th place for Football Manager.

Launch sales and surprise sales are what broke the chart with Death Road To Canada soaring, Timber Man Vs. and Raging Justice resting fresh out of a sale and WonderBoy returning to the charts with 50% off.

Elsewhere, Mario Kart 8 once again hits the low-end, and Yonder joins the fray, alongside Wizard of Legend.

 

We will see how Hyrule Warriors lasts next week, and whether it can surpass Donkey Kong, and what new indie darlings arrive. This would have been the launch of Dark Souls Remastered but…we know what happened there. Expect a quiet week! Happy Gaming!

NL Inklings Tournaments – Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe!

The NL Inklings are holding Tournaments!

Yes that’s right Squids, we are hosting a tournament. In addition to a new modified rule set from out last event, we’re going bigger, but more on that shortly!

Firstly, every 4 weeks we will host a Splatoon 2 Tournament! (Splatfest permitting of course!)

 

Splatoon 2 Tournament!

The Splatoon 2 Tournament takes place on June 9th from 5pm BST!

The NL Inklings Splatoon 2 Tournament!

The first Splatoon 2 Tournament will take place on June 9th from 5pm BST!

4 (OR MORE!) teams will battle it out to crown the ultimate Squid Squad across several modes, including Clam Blitz, Rainmaker, Tower Control and Splat Zones!

Draws will be determined by Turf War matches, so don’t just practice in Ranked now!

Substitute players will available for every team so don’t fret if you need to drop for a bit. Each team will also be granted their own text and voice channels on Discord for communication and strategies!

Points are awarded for wins, and there will be a losers bracket as well, so don’t worry if your team gets knocked out. If we end up with more than 4 teams, well don’t worry, we can always do quarter finals first, or in the event of an uneven number of teams, round-robin to determine our top 4!

This entire event won’t take 4 hours, but it’s best to be sure.

If you want in, head down to Discord as soon as you can!

 

What else is there?

The Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Tournament takes place on June 23rd!

The Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Tournament!

Well who says there is going to be one tournament a month right? We have pretty active Rocket League, Overwatch, Mario Kart and more communities here, so why not hold a tournament every fortnight (Or Fortnite, haha!).

Yes that means starting June 9th, we will be hosting tournaments EVERY TWO WEEKS, with every other tournament being Splatoon 2!

So we will be kicking things off with a Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Tournament on June 23rd! This will be a set number of races over a given window, so just drop in when you want. Exact times and sign ups will go live on June 10th!

 

Also as a personal from me, if you share Splatoon 2, Rocket League or any kind of clips, art, snapshots etc. on Twitter, if you can include the hashtag #NLInklings, it will make life very easy on getting our community highlights together!

Thanks for reading, get ready to Splat and then get ready to Race!

Nintendo Switch eShop – UK Sales Charts (13/05/2018)

With the release of Donkey Kong a week gone, how has the UK eShop chart settled this week? Are the regulars still high?

Numbers in brackets are previous positions based on: 06/04/2018 (Unless they haven’t moved) in the UK eShop

Donkey Kong could stay at the top of the UK eShop charts this week

Has Donkey Kong maintained the number 1 spot?

1: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (NEW) – £49.99
2: Stardew Valley – £10.99
3: Rocket League (Up from 4th) – £15.04
4: Timber Man Vs. (NEW) (10% OFF) (Up from 12th) – £1.61 (Usually £1.79)
5: Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition – £19.99
6: Football Manager Touch 2018 (Down from 3rd) – £29.99
7: Death Road To Canada (NEW) (20% OFF) – £9.59 (Usually £11.99)
8: Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. (Down from 7th) – £6.29
9: Sonic Mania – £15.99
10: Robonauts (Down from 6th) – £13.49
11: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – £49.99
12: Raging Justice (NEW) (10% OFF) – £8.99 (Usually £9.99)
13: Celeste – £17.99
14: Bridge Constructor Portal (34% OFF) (Up from not charting!) – £8.90 (Usually £13.49)
15: Kirby Star Allies (Down from 14th) – £49.99

 

UK eShop Analysis

 

So all in all this has been a quiet week on the UK eShop. First note is that yes, Donkey Kong remains in the top spot as expected.

The usual top 4 of Rocket League, Football Manager, Stardew Valley and Minecraft all hold high positions with Arcade Archives maintain a mid chart position.

Death Road to Canada and Raging Justice both show strong openings no doubt helped by their launch discounts.

Kirby is about to drop from the charts again as Mario Kart holds it’s position as the quintessential Switch title. Bridge Constructor Portal makes a resurgence thanks to a discount.

Most interesting this week is Sonic Mania and Celeste maintaining their chart positions. These games appear to have long legs on the eShop.

 

That’s all for this week! A good showing both from indies while DK rules! See you next week where things will be very different with the launch of Hyrule Warriors: Definitive Edition! Happy Gaming!

Virtual Console Is Dead As We Know It: Good!

Virtual Console as we know it will no longer be a thing on Nintendo Switch. Why is this such a good thing?

The announcement from Nintendo that NES games, 20 at launch, will be available as part of the online subscription has people in hysterics. 20 games at launch with more to come, as part of a larger package sounds like a good deal. It sounds like the solution people have been honestly wanting to the lacklustre Virtual Console. So what’s the issue?

 

Virtual Console as a name and banner has been discontinued.

Virtual Console as a brand is dead. Apparently.

 

It’s In The Name

Let’s be honest, Nintendo wants as far away from anything related to the Wii branding as possible. Virtual Console is very much a relic of that time. In 2006 this service was incredible. Buy any available retro game you want. This service continued on 3DS and Wii U starting in 2012, but things changed.

The reaction to this was one of disdain.

“Why should we buy these same games again?”

“It’s too expensive!”

“Why are they releasing the games in this way?”

By this point Virtual Console needed to evolve and modernise. At this time the way we consume small media like TV, Films, Books and Music became increasingly subscription based. Access to an all you can eat buffet where you pick what you want. Instead, Virtual Console acted as buying the meals individually.

So why are people angry it’s gone? Some are even saying they are upset as it was why they bought the system, expecting it, despite Nintendo never saying it was coming.

 

Seriously, Why?

NES games are offered as part of a subscription model

NES games with added functionality will be part of the subscription service

This is perhaps the most perplexing aspect of the matter. People are being very vocal that “Nintendo doesn’t want our money” once they announced Virtual Console would not be returning. To this I can only ask, well what did you expect?

If you spend the better part of a decade telling a company you aren’t going to give them your money, things will change. Nintendo DID want your money and still do, but the loud and constant vocal dissatisfaction caused a change of course. They want your money, but you made it clear they weren’t getting it via that method.

So when Nintendo modernizes their retro offerings, addresses the complaints by adding new features and a different monetisation…people ask why?

It’s because you asked for it. Don’t go to Apple telling them to add the headphone jack again and then ask them “Well what did you do that for?” when they do. Don’t ask me to slap you in the face for six years, and when I do, ask why I did it.

 

The Service Is Simply Evolving…Into a Service!

Xbox Game Pass is a solution to getting games for cheap in a buffet format

Game Pass is another example of a subscription service in gaming

Virtual Console had to evolve. It had to change and this is the evolution they chose. As part of your $20 a year (Or less on the family plan with enough people) you are getting 20 NES games at launch. $1 per game, with added online play like controller swapping and screen sharing. Also included in this is all the future games they will add. Not to mention online play and cloud saves and discounts!

The one concern is that yes, it would be hard to maintain that low price point when more and more games or systems are added. At some point it becomes a money sink. It just depends where that point is for the service. Of course people would much rather just buy the games again, although as noted they spent a long time not wanting to.

Is this an ideal solution? Not really. It leaves a lot of holes but it addresses the immediate complaints of Virtual Console. Perhaps as the service evolves it will develop a stronger library.

 

Virtual Console Simply Had To Go!

Vs. Super Mario Bros highlights the potential danger of retro games handed out piece meal

Vs. Super Mario Bros. refuses to stop selling for over £6

Switch owners love indies. Nindies as they call them. But what you don’t hear mentioned is how Vs. Super Mario Bros, yet another release of the game, is consistently in the eShop charts. What would happen if Super Mario World, or A Link To The Past appeared too?

Indies would be smothered. Heck look on 3DS at the impact the releases of the GameBoy Pokemon titles had. Nostalgia sells but it comes at the cost of something else selling.

Plus, no one can argue that buying the same game for £5 is good value. It isn’t. Sure effectively renting them isn’t stellar either but here we are in a world where every company in every industry does just that. Even software companies do it.

For the sake of the third-party scene and to modernise to how content is consumed in the modern age, the format had to change.

 

The Games Are Probably Still Coming Anyway

Virtual Console as we know it is gone!

Virtual Console as we know it is gone!

I’ll read the statement Nintendo gave to Kotaku in full, as this will highlight a very important final point.

There are currently no plans to bring classic games together under the Virtual Console banner as has been done on other Nintendo systems

In none-PR terms, and in terms a lot of people seem to be missing in a world of skim reading headlines: The classic games will not be sold under the name “Virtual Console”.

Nowhere does it say they won’t be coming. Nowhere does it say “No Classic Games”. Just that the games won’t be sold under that name.

Can we all calm down now?

What form of branding will it take? Probably the Classic range of systems, or the subscription, or compilations like those released by Capcom and SEGA.

Plus, this highlights something. The association that retro games from Nintendo absolutely MUST be branded Virtual Console reminds us of the Wii U. Remember that back then the problem was the name, the branding became too synonymous with one specific thing and became a mess.

Now Virtual Console is the name demanded to be applied to retro releases. They want to break this connection to past brands that frankly shouldn’t be around. Most certainly not if they want to evolve going forward in a modern world.

 

So What Does This All Mean?

Perhaps overall this shows that people get too hung up on names? This is the reality of an evolving business, one that faced backlash from consumers. But now those same consumers are missing that they are why it changed, they are why it evolved. Yet they wonder why.

People also fail to see how the market has changed, and how this approach to old games has to change to accommodate that.

Whether or not this is better is up for debate, but one thing that is certain is that it was necessary to change.

Thanks for reading, don’t forget to hit those share buttons! Let us know what you think of thee retirement of this brand, and Happy Gaming!

Our first full podcast is live now where we discuss all things gaming from recent events.

This podcast includes the Dark Souls delay on Nintendo Switch, our initial impressions of Nintendo Labo, and God of War being patched!

Plus, hear our predictions on E3 2018. Does the 3DS refuse to die? What does Microsoft have for us at E3 2018?

Check it out below, and Happy Gaming!

 

Behind The Game Podcast – Nintendo Online, E3 2018 Predictions, Labo and More!

Nintendo Switch eShop – UK Sales Charts (06/05/2018)

Notable new releases show the UK eShop Charts may be very different this week. Is FMTouch still high? What about Donkey Kong?

Numbers in brackets are previous positions based on: 29/04/2018 (Unless they haven’t moved) in the UK eShop

How did Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze fare in the eShop charts?

Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze is the huge new release this week

1: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (NEW) – £49.99
2: Stardew Valley – £10.99
3: Football Manager Touch 2018 (Down from 1st) – £29.99
4: Rocket League (Up from 5th) – £15.04
5: Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition (Down from 3rd) – £19.99
6: Robonauts (80% OFF) – £2.69 (Usually £13.49)
7: Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. – £6.29
8: South Park: The Fractured But Whole (NEW) (Up from 14th) – £49.99
9: Sonic Mania (Down from 8th) – £15.99
10: Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm Trilogy (NEW) – £44.99
11: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Up from 13th) – £49.99
12: Timer Man Vs. (NEW) (10% OFF) – £1.61 (Usually £1.79)
13: Celeste (Down from 12th) – £17.99
14: Kirby Star Allies (Up from not charting!) – £49.99
15: Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm 3: Full Burst (New) – £16.99

 

This week the charts are pretty strange, so let’s break it down.

 

Analysis

 

The notable big entries this week are Bandai Namco’s Naruto titles, with the Trilogy placing respectably at 10th, and the third entry as a standalone purchase in 15th. South Park continues to steadily climb post-launch and Donkey Kong of course stormed to the top.

The usual chart topping suspects remain the same, with Minecraft, Rocket League, Stardew Valley and now FM Touch. Robonauts remains high due to a discount, Vs. Super Mario Bros due to nostalgia.

The critical darlings Sonic Mania and Celeste remain in the charts, as is expected now. Kirby returns after vanishing yet again, showing new purchases continuing long after launch. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is at least no longer the only first party release here!

Timber Man Vs is the final new entry, its low price and lower discount no doubt contributing.

 

That’s all for this week! A good showing both by indies and third parties with of course DK ruling the roost! See you next week where things may be very different! Happy Gaming!

Nintendo Labo – Does It Matter If It Fails?

Nintendo Labo released in late April to what many call middling sales. But does it really matter?

Nintendo Labo allows users to learn about engineering and programming at their own pace in interactive ways

Nintendo Labo released late April to somewhat warm reception

Consumers and armchair analysts can argue all they want about the merits of Nintendo selling cardboard. Included with each Labo kit is the ability to produce Toy-Con and even make your own custom creations. However, in terms of sales it would seem Labo hasn’t hit home.

Around the internet on message boards you can see examples of “I told you so” and “Well who thought $80 cardboard would sell?” and this attitude is both unfairly dismissive and forgets the history of the game industry.

 

We Have Been Here Before!

The PlayStation EyeToy was a weird add-on used in few games

The EyeToy, one of the earlier examples of a weird peripheral gadget

Cast your minds back to the PlayStation 2, a system on top of the world. What do you do when you have success like that? Find new ways to use to device you have already sold to people. Sony did just that with the EyeToy! This is an odd little peripheral that projected your body into the game for what was at the time the height of motion control in gaming.

Of course people don’t remember it now. It existed though. The EyeToy had games exclusive to it, but it required the PS2 to function. It was a platform on top of an already successful platform. A “Sub-Platform”. A peripheral.

Jump ahead to the PS3. Despite early struggles it ultimately became a respected and well selling console. What would a company do with a device already in homes? Introduce a peripheral, with exclusive games, but still tied to the core hardware. Introduce both PS Move and Wonderbook.

PS Wonderbook was a great example of a failed peripheral for a platform.

Who remembers Wonderbook? Anyone? No?

 

Some of these peripherals did fail…

You won’t remember Wonderbook. It would be a challenge to find one these days, but the PS Move lived on and still is available as a peripheral. Of course the thing to remember is sometimes these peripherals will fail.

But why will they fail? Well they simply don’t catch on. A peripheral has a maximum base to sell to that is equal to that of the platform it needs to even function. So for something like Kinect, it could only sell to, at most, the total amount of Xbox 360 users.

Price and purpose: If a peripheral is too expensive it obviously won’t catch on especially if the perceived value is low.

Some Peripherals Do Succeed

PSVR is a peripheral designed for PS4

PSVR has shown how a “Sub-Platform” can mostly flourish

Sometimes one has to take a look back to see the failures before judging the present successes. PlayStation VR is a new way to experience video games and has numerous exclusive titles. It also has a very hefty price point to enter. On top of that, it needs the PS4 to even work! PlayStation VR, for all it is its own platform, remains a sub-platform wholly dependant on PS4.

How did it succeed? It was periphery to a system already in homes. It gave a new way to play games. A new experience. But one thing it doesn’t do is detract from the system it is attached to.

This is the thing with peripherals. They need to be understood and accepted as supplements to the platform they need to function. They can offer new takes on existing experiences like VR or offer new experiences all together. But generally no one should expect a sub-platform to sell like a new platform.

So How Does This Matter To Labo?

Simple! Nintendo Labo is a peripheral. The fact that it has multiple kits under one name should tell you future kits will (Probably) exist. Additionally, it is entirely dependant on Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo Labo lets people use the Switch in new ways. It is an educational tool teaching engineering, creativity and programming in an accessible way.

Nintendo Labo features a Toy-Con Garage for custom apps

The Toy-Con Garage lets users make their own experiences

Toy-Con Garage lets people learn and understand basic programming. The technology behind making the cardboard creations work is simple yet technical.

Labo as a peripheral is ideal. It does something different from the already hot core device, to bring in other people. It’s only crime is potentially price.

So What If Labo Fails?

If Labo fails then we simply move on. In the same we moved on from weird Wii accessories and Wonderbook and EyeToy and Kinect. A peripheral failing isn’t the end of the world. After all, it never hurts to try.

To loop back to the earlier dismissive comments – if that attitude prevailed we would likely see peripherals die out. The fear of trying and failing would end with not trying at all. It is better to try and then fail than not try at all. A peripheral can’t damage a platform. If the peripheral is marketed well then it can stand as its own thing and thrive as a supplement to a system.

But if it does come to fail, well the platform it is attached to didn’t fail. Only the peripheral. The platform did well enough beforehand to make this venture worthwhile.

It Is Harmless!

Following on from yesterday and a discussion about mid-tier games not needing to sell millions, Labo is in the same position. It doesn’t need to be PSVR or WiiFit. If handled sensibly, if marketed to the right people, Labo will do just fine.

There is no harm or shame in trying something new with your existing hit platform. By being dependant on something that already exists, success or failure really doesn’t matter, so long as it isn’t incredibly expensive to develop the peripheral. But the success of the base system doesn’t guarantee success for the peripheral either!

 

To conclude, it all doesn’t matter. Success or failure the Nintendo Switch will continue on its path just like the PS2 did, or the SNES with its add-ons. Labo ultimately needs Switch. Switch doesn’t need Labo.

But it is always nice to have something different there to supplement too.

 

Thanks for reading! If you liked this piece please share on social media via the buttons below, and let me know I shouldn’t play with cardboard! Happy Gaming!

Nintendo 3DS: It’s Time To Move On…Slowly.

The 3DS Family is now almost 7 years old, and I see two camps. Those who don’t want to upgrade to a Nintendo Switch for things that were on 3DS previously, and those who want it to die immediately.

 

REPUBLISHED MAY 3 2018 – Nintendo themselves have clarified the stance on the 3DS going forward:

“[The 3DS] has an ample software lineup at a price point that makes the system affordable especially for parents looking to buy for their kids. We expect that demand to continue during this fiscal year as well, so we will continue to sell the product”

“Given that Nintendo Switch is a home gaming system that can be taken on the go, this situation may change if it grows from being a one-per-household system to a one-per-person system. But the price of Nintendo Switch is not something with which most parents would buy a system for every one of their children in a short period of time. Moving forward, we will work to ascertain what kinds of play people want at which price points, and as long as there is such demand, we will continue to sell the Nintendo 3DS system. I see the product coexisting with Nintendo Switch at this point in time.”

 

Original Story – December 2017

 

So this is an interesting position we find ourselves in. Nintendo 3DS launched in March 2011, meaning very soon, it hits 7 years old. For any console that is exceptionally good, as the average tends to hover around 5 years, with exceptions being the DS, 3DS, PS2 and the entire 7th Generation of consoles. You could probably say 7 years is now the new average.

In reality, at this stage, we should be looking to the future, even with the New 3DS/2DS lines, you can only get so much out of the systems, and as shown with Pokemon, and as explained by the developers, that ceiling has been hit. You can’t push it anymore than you already have, and again, 7 years? That’s a great time to move on.

Thing is, I see two warring sides to this.

 

On one hand, we have the Pokemon fans primarily. They say the newly released New 2DS XL is a sign it’s not dead, and the move of things like Pokemon to Switch are just cash grabs, and that they should just keep making games for 3DS. Why should we have to upgrade, they say.

Okay so first off, you’ve had to do this before. Remember Pokemon Crystal? You needed a GameBoy Colour. Then a GBA, DS and 3DS. Now it’s Switch. This isn’t new and part of the industry. You can’t be held back for so long and you need to move forward, heck most consumers encourage it.

The concept that you wasted your money…well that depends on your individual perception of value. If you bought a system just for Pokemon, you would know an upgrade, like with anything technological, is inevitable. It will happen no matter what. You can’t expect the system to last and be supported forever.

With regards to the argument they just released a New 2DS XL, they also released the Wii Mini a year after the Wii U. Did that mean the Wii was still kicking? Not really, unless you count the licensed games and Just Dance. I will come back to the New 2DS XL though, it ties in to something else.

 

What about the other side of the argument?

The other side of the crowd simply wants the 3DS line dead, as soon as Switch is out, citing it takes away development resources and there is no reason the games shouldn’t be on Switch.

First off with this one, do you remember how everyone reacted to the near empty final year of the Wii? Yeah, that’s how support used to be handled at the end of a console life by Nintendo, and people hated it. But here, people want it? Why? It’s a dumb decision and should never be done that way.

Regarding the games still coming to 3DS, yes they could have been made with Switch in mind, ignoring late localizations like Dragon Quest. The majority of first party titles have been smaller studios owned by Nintendo, outsourced remakes like Metroid and Superstar Saga, or again, late localisations. Or third parties, who do whatever they please, and Nintendo would be very unwise to turn around and say hey, stop making games for the 60 million plus 3DS systems out there. They already had a bad rap with developers for their controlling ways with the NES, why go back there and force people onto a new platform?

 

Secondly, really now? You want them to throw away all investment into well in-development projects and have the extra time, money and man hours put into changing everything for the new architecture of the Switch, its features, and HD development? Sure some 3DS games have been ported up, like Monster Hunter XX and Resident Evil Revelations (Albeit that was ported elsewhere first) and games like Fire Emblem Warriors came out on both systems, but doing that is in of itself splitting the game in two sides. One version will be inherently inferior, but unlike a game across Vita and PS4, there is nothing gained by having the Switch version except TV play and maybe a boost in sales from the limited install base, and an extra feather in the library of a young system. IT would likely sell to the biggest audience anyway (Obviously), and frankly, many companies wouldn’t want to spend the extra time and most importantly money.

Is this normal?

 

This is the thing, systems are allowed a crossover period. It’s normal. Normally the last few already in-development first party games trickle out, and third parties catch up with localizations and support dries up over a year or two, save for the odd third-party game to cash in on the install base and drive software sales from, get this, late adopters.

So coming back to the New 2DS XL, it is the Wii Mini to the 3DS. The PS3 Super Slim. The Xbox 360 Elite. When manufacturing a system gets cheap enough, it’s actually very wise to leverage that huge back catalog accumulated over the years the system had, and sell a revised, cheaper to make, more affordable to the consumers budget system, which is exactly what the New 2DS XL is. For suspiciously half the price of a Nintendo Switch (Wink wink) you get the entire 3DS backlog (And DS backlog too!) on a now very cheap to make system.

As a deal to late adopters, those who pick up systems late in life, it’s a great way to squeeze potential last sales with a low price and huge catalogue of games. Just as the PS3 and Xbox 360 and even the Wii were sold for a few years into their successors lifespans with their cheapest models and games, so will 3DS.

This image tells a thousands stories on its own…

7 years is a very long time, and for Pokemon and other games, they have a new home, a new ceiling to jump towards. This happens with any system, and any system is wise to be revised and made the budget option for families or Little Timmy’s first system. This extends to even the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X now: The premium models, like Switch, to their now cheaper to make, huge catalogue, revised systems in PS4 and Xbox One S. Difference here is yes, it is a completely different ecosystem, but the reasoning is the same.

It’s time to move on, but it’s not wise to just kill the system where it stands. Let it trickle out slowly, as other systems do. Oh, and please, get used to the idea of upgrading your hardware, it’s been 30 years already.

 

As always if you enjoyed this article, give it a share on social media and leave your thoughts below, and until next time, Happy Gaming!

Mid-Tier Games: Why We Love Them and Want More!

Mid-Tier Games are some of the highlights of the industry. But where did they go and why are they now returning?

 

Sonic Mania is a perfect example of a mid-tier release from a major company

A perfect example of a “Mid-tier” game!

The immediate thing any gamer needs to understand is the distinction between a Mid-Tier or “AA” game, and something that is commonly called a “AAA” game. The difference is actually night and day!

A “AAA” game is quite simply a game with huge potential reach in terms of customers. monetization and one massive budget backing it all up are other features.

A “Mid-Tier” game is a sizeable project, but marketed within reason. No game will be blown out of budget. A game knows the audience and the publisher will be happy reaching them. It doesn’t need to sell tens of millions after all.

Not every game needs to be Call of Duty in terms of sheer size or market value. Indeed every company will have a few massive well-known titles but a good developer leaves room for the smaller games.

 

So what are these smaller games?

Crash Bandicoot returned in 2017 with what can be best described as a AA release

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy is the perfect example of a big company stepping back into Mid-Tier gaming!

Smaller games come in all shapes and sizes. Companies are fond of putting out experimental ideas and seeing how well they sell. Franchises can even start as a smaller release and explode into the mainstream!

Splatoon was originally a smaller release. Simply a unique idea that ended up exploding in popularity to become on of Nintendo’s top franchises. Sticking with Nintendo, a franchise like Yoshi or Kirby also falls under this category. Notable and recognised characters that won’t sell in high quantity, but will make a return on investment.

PlayStation is also very good at pushing Mid-Tier releases. Gravity Rush, Fat Princess and LittleBigPlanet, all sit alongside the big releases. So why are these games all so important?

 

Why are smaller games so important?

Bayonetta 2 is a game that also fills the smaller game niche.

Bayonetta 2 is yet another example of a game that fills this niche

Try and imagine a system like the PS4. It gets all the huge AAA yearly releases. It holds the top of the tier first-party titles. But imagine the system without Persona 5, without Nioh, without Ratchet and Clank. Do you start to see what is missing?

Smaller games provide one key thing: Variety! If your system has nothing but huge games that need to sell millions for the publisher to consider it a “success”, then you will be presenting a surprisingly narrow selection of games.

Smaller games can afford to offer different experiences. They don’t need to cater to as many people as possible after all. Can you envision a Kirby title with the budget and scope of Call of Duty? That would never sell enough to be worthwhile. Yet being a mid-tier game allows Kirby to be unique, to be different and offer something worthwhile to a library.

So why are these games making a resurgence?

 

This is an easy answer. Cast your mind back to a decade ago, the height of the Xbox 360 and PS3. Everything wanted to be Call of Duty, the next blockbuster hit. The industry chases trends, currently Battle Royale games apparently, and the trend was to go big.

Even first party developers fell to this. When was the last Jak and Daxter? Sly Cooper? F-Zero? The mid-tier game fell to the side in pursuit of mega hit after hit. Every kind of game has a place in the market, but what felt strange was the almost overnight shift.

It’s hard to look back on the PS3 and PS4 and not wish it was like the PS2. Yes they got smaller games, even from first parties. Doesn’t it feel like they haven’t been pushed like they used to? Gravity Rush 2 is losing online connectivity, though that was recently delayed. I didn’t even know Fat Princess was a thing that existed. Tearaway isn’t mentioned anymore.

New games like Concrete Genie show up for sure. But it’s not in the volume it used to be. The variety suffers.

Metroid Samus Returns is a recent example of a smaller title and revival of a franchise

Metroid: Samus Returns was not only the revival of a fan favourite, but a commitment to smaller titles

The same happened for Nintendo. Only recently have we seen renewed interest in smaller games. A few popped up on Wii U and 3DS but Switch singled a shift. Snipperclips, ARMS, Bayonetta (Again). The Wii U had Wonderful 101, Captain Toad and 3DS has BoxBoy and Dillon.

The games supplement the library of huge titles and this is what makes a system truly attractive. Variety. It’s where Microsoft has fallen short. Swamped with the huge releases but smaller releases are hard to come by especially on a first party front.

 

So where are we going next?

 

Well this is also easy to predict. Third party developers will forever be inclined to pursue the big hits. They locked themselves into a cycle of monetization and marketing. Some are branching out to smaller games like Activision with Crash and Spyro or EA funding smaller titles from indies. By and large however that will remain a smaller part of their strategies.

Where this really comes into play is with the platform holders. They can throw out as many small titles as they want alongside the Marios and Uncharteds of the world. They have the resources and hardware sales to accommodate it.

It’s from first party software that you see the most variety. This word keeps popping up but to truly have something for everyone you need to be varied. Know that a game will sell only so much and plan accordingly.

Sometimes appealing to more people over multiple lower selling titles is better than aiming for the top every time.

 

 

Thanks for reading, and if you agree or disagree, feel to shout on social media. This is an interesting discussion spurred by trying to work out where I find my enjoyment for a system as a whole, naturally it’s that word again: Variety.

Happy Gaming!

Behind The Game Update – 02/05/2018! Inklings Approaching!

Surprise! Meet the NL Inklings!!

Yep, finally after who knows how long, we’ve got our own domain (Obviously, it’s why you’re here!) and we’ve now integrated the NL Inklings!

The NL Inklings logo!

The NL Inklings logo used on all our streams and media!

What are the NL Inklings? Well it’s a Squid Squad for Splatoon 2 that we here participate in (I happen to be a tyrannical overlord or something like that…) and we live stream matches sometimes!

But that’s not all! On our official Discord (Link in the bar above!) we set up matches and cooperative efforts for other games like Minecraft, Rocket League, Overwatch, Pokemon and more! So come on by, check the Discord widget on the side of the site to see who is online and get an invite!

We also have @NLInklings Twitter updates. Give it a follow if you want to know when we are streaming some Splatoon action! It’s down the side of the site too!

We aim to have sessions every Saturday (Splatterday!) at 7pm BST/8pm GMT!

What does the NL Inklings community do?

The Binding of Isaac Session 3 - Available on YouTube and Twitch.tv

An example of our advertising for streams

But that’s not all! We now have live stream integration too! What will this mean? Well if you’re viewing this site on a desktop, you will get a notification that we are live on Twitch! Simply click it and boom, there you go. We will also publish posts to watch the stream embedded if you wish!

We will be live streaming play-throughs for future reviews, fun, competitive gaming with the Discord crew and maybe even more. Follow on Twitch or @BritishPlaying on Twitter for immediate notifications about those events!

 

That’s all for now! More will follow in the week! Keep playing and happy gaming!

Nintendo Switch eShop – UK Sales Charts (29/04/2018)

Is Football Manager still at the top? Did South Park make an impact as a new release? What indie games shot up in sales or otherwise? Let’s see…

Numbers in brackets 


1: Football Manager Touch 2018 – £29.99
2: Stardew Valley (Up from 3rd) – £10.99
3: Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition (Up from 4th) – £19.99
4: Oxenfree (Down from 2nd) – £15.99
5: Rocket League (Up from 6th) – £15.04
6: Robonauts (80% OFF) (Up from 10th) – £2.69 (u+Usually £13.49)
7: Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. (Up from 8th) – £6.29
8: Sonic Mania (Up from 12th) – £15.99
9: Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (Down from 5th) – £22.49
10: Streets of Red (Down from 9th) – £6.29
11: Don’t Starve: Nintendo Switch Edition (Down from 7th) – £17.99
12: Celeste (Up from 13th) – £17.99
13: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Up from 14th) – £49.99
14: South Park: The Fractured But Whole (NEW) – £49.99
15: Adventure Pals (Down from 11th) – £10.79

 

 

So what can we gleam from this look into the UK eShop? Well…

Football Manager Touch 2018 has firmly cemented itself as a top seller, making up what will likely be the top 4 for a good while now alongside Rocket League, Stardew Valley and Minecraft. At least until FIFA (Maybe) comes out on the Switch this September.

Arcade Archives remains around the middle of the charts, further showing nostalgia sells, as does Sonic Mania right behind perhaps in preparation for the DLC this July.

Streets of Red maintains it’s place despite no longer being on sale, while Robonauts hugely benefits. Of course Shovel Knight and Don’t Starve continue to drop down, while Celeste and Adventure Pals maintain the lower ends of the charts, with Celeste being a recent return.

Most notable then, is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe maintains it’s position as the sole charting digital first party title, and the only new entry this week is a respectable 14th place for South Park, a full price release of a game from October on other platforms. Maybe this one will pick up steam?

 

And that’s it for this week, so what did we learn? Football Manager is a hit, Mario Kart sells, indies are living the dream and South Park at least charted. Expect Donkey Kong to top next week though as a notable new release.

Nintendo Switch eShop – UK Sales Charts (22/04/2018)

This week in the UK eShop sales charts we get to see just what is going on with Football Manager, if it can hold its top spot after rocketing up the charts, and what other indie and third-party releases are sticking around yet again!

 

Numbers in brackets are previous positions based on: 15/04/2018 (Unless they haven’t moved)


1: Football Manager Touch 2018 (NEW) (Up from 3rd) – £29.99
2: Oxenfree (Up from 8th) – £15.99 
3: Stardew Valley (Up from 4th) – £10.99
4: Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition (Down from 2nd) – £19.99
5: Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (Up from 7th) – £22.49
6: Rocket League (Down from 1st) – £15.04
7: Don’t Starve: Nintendo Switch Edition (NEW) (Up from 13th) – £17.99
8: Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. (Down from 5th) – £6.29
9: Streets of Red (NEW) (20% OFF) – £5.03 (Usually £6.29)
10: Robonauts (80% OFF) (Up from not charting) – £2.69 (Usually £13.49)
11: Adventure Pals (NEW) – £10.79
12: Sonic Mania (Up from 14th) – £15.99
13: Celeste (Up from not charting) – £17.99
14: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Down from 11th) – £49.99
15: Kirby Star Allies (Down from 12th) – £49.99

 

So take aways for this week? A few things really. First, sales of Oxenfree and Shovel Knight have propelled up the charts to actually dismantle the usual three suspects of Rocket League, Minecraft and Stardew Valley.

Football Manager is very likely to remain a chart topper along with the usual three for some time now, especially at £30. Arcade Archives VS Super Mario Bros also continued to linger in the middle of the charts.

Don’t Starve seems to be selling really well, still climbing up to a respectable 7th. Streets of Red and Adventure Pals are the other new indie entries this week, one with a launch discount, locking themselves notable sales over other entries.

Celeste has also returned, as has Robonauts with a huge discount. UK gamers love cheap and cheerful after all.

More of note is the continued presence of Mario Kart as the evergreen digital first party release, as Kirby is about to fall from the charts entirely. Not surprising, but Mario Kart will also likely drop in the coming weeks with the release of Donkey Kong.

 

So that’s it for this week on the Switch eShop in the UK! Join us next Sunday when we see if Football Manager can remain on top. It probably can, it’s football. I said this last week too.

Pokemon Switch May Look Like A 3DS Game….Sort of (Speculation!)

So an unverified image has me thinking about Pokemon for Nintendo Switch, and how things are lining up to give us an idea of how the game will at least look.

 

Pokemon Switch is almost expected to launch in 2018, we find out if that has changed with Nintendo’s financial briefing on the 26th of April, but an unverified image doing the rounds that no one can seem to debunk is leaving some concerned. However, that concern is probably not justified.

 

So this image is quite simple, it shows a trainer in a water area riding a Lapras, like in X and Y, Sun and Moon etc. and while this isn’t new, the art style and quality of the visuals shown show what many call an up-scaled 3DS game. This obviously is leaving many disappointed, as Switch is leaps and bounds more capable than the 3DS.

However, I posit that this…is exactly what we are going to get. It is in essence going to be a “3DS game”. At least, underneath in the code it is.

 

What am I talking about? Well there are a few things pointing in this direction that the Switch game will reuse the engine used for the 3DS games, hence the similarities, just updated for HD and more complex animations and effects and so on.

First is the most well documented – the in battle models for Pokemon up-scale to HD with simple mods in the “Citra” emulator for 3DS. They look strikingly good and with some new texture work, the models are already HD.

Creatures Inc., the company responsible for modelling Pokemon, has evidently future proofed the geometry of the models, and with some touching up, as shown by the simple mods on 3DS, they are already good to go for HD development. A simple time-saving measure of course, but it is notable that the 3DS engine can support what is easily a HD model (Textures aside).

 

However, if we are to go even deeper than that, there is one fact unifying the 3DS and Nintendo Switch that makes use of the 3DS engine very probable: The Nvidia Tegra X1.

 

 

Now what do I mean by this? Well it’s simple, the Tegra X1 is an ARM based chip. What is ARM? ARM is simply a RISC architecture (Reduced Instruction Set Computing). This means it takes fewer cycles to perform instructions. What ARM exactly is, isn’t important.

So ARM is the underlying architecture of the Tegra X1 used in the Nintendo Switch, it makes sense, it’s a battery-powered device. But what many people don’t know, is the 3DS is also an ARM based system.

Now the 3DS chips are significantly less complex than a Tegra chip, obviously. Dual core, much lower clock speeds, ARM11 chips vs the much newer technology and faster speeds of the Tegra, but the point stands that at their base, the level at which operations are performed, they share an architecture. Now there may be differences between the 3DS and Switch in how advanced that architecture is, but the way they process information will be remarkably similar at least.

 

So what does this have to do with the 3DS Pokemon engine? Well, everything. Why would they make a brand new engine, when the one they already have can store and use what are effectively HD quality models, be very easily modified to use said models at high resolutions, and is designed for the ARM architecture?

My reasoning is that Game Freak will port at least the core of the 3DS engine. The work has already been done. It’s compiled for ARM, and it already handles some of the assets at a level many people are happy with, just not on the 3DS hardware.

They most likely won’t bring the engine as is, instead choosing to modify that common base for Switch for API use and to better utilise what the system can do, but the image shown above that shows the rumoured appearance of Pokemon in HD?

It may not be that far from the truth.

 

 

Thanks for reading, and I could as always be completely wrong, who knows? They could CryENGINE for all we know! Whatever the game looks like however, I am fully prepared for an evolution of how it looked on 3DS, if the work has already been done at least use it.

Of course feel free to share this, see what you think, maybe someone out there knows something I don’t about the relationship between 3DS and Switch that either debunks or enhances this theory, but that’s all it is for now, a theory. Happy gaming!

 

Nintendo Switch eShop – UK Sales Charts (15/04/2018)

I figured we could start doing this, looking over the UK eShop charts on Switch.

Update (15/4/2018) – Yes, Football Manager Touch 2018 has hit Number 1

This week, the comparison data will be from the day prior, April 14th, as some interesting things have shown up. All future weeks will be compared to the prior Sunday!

Numbers in brackets are previous positions based on: 14/04/2018 (Unless they haven’t moved)
1: Rocket League – £15.04
2: Minecraft: Nintendo Switch Edition – £19.99
3: Football Manager Touch 2018 (NEW) (Up from 4th) – £29.99
4: Stardew Valley (Down from 3rd) – £10.99
5: Arcade Archives: Vs. Super Mario Bros. – £6.29
6: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – £49.99
7: Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove (20% OFF) (Up from 9th) – £17.99 (Usually £22.49)
8: Oxenfree (75% OFF) (Up from not charting) – £3.99 (Usually £15.99)
9: Snake Pass (Down from 8th) – £15.99
10: SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt (Down from 7th) – £8.99
11: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Up from 12th) – £49.99
12: Kirby Star Allies (Down from 11th) – £49.99
13: Don’t Starve: Nintendo Switch Edition (NEW) – £17.99
14: Sonic Mania – £15.99
15: ARMS (Down from 10th) – £49.99

So what do we take away from this? Well a few things.

First, even though Football Manager Touch 2018 arrived with no fanfare, it’s skyrocketed up the charts – a surprise, but given FIFA does the same whenever it goes on sale, it’s expected especially when the UK is prime footy territory.

Another note is the resurgence of a few indie games. Snake Pass is fresh off of sale, and Oxenfree and Shovel Knight have absolutely shot up. Don’t Starve is the other new entry this week, showing a good showing for yet another release of the game.

Kirby is still hanging on, to my surprise despite falling hard out of the retail sales charts – and ARMS, fresh out of a sale and demo, is about to vanish again. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has decided to show up again too, probably for some new Switch owners as it seems to be the go to game.

It should be noted the top of the charts rarely changes. Arcade Archives VS. Super Mario Bros. is a prime example of why Virtual Console most likely won’t arrive at all: Imagine all those games clogging the charts like this one does. But Minecraft, Rocket League and Stardew Valley always occupy top spots and have since launch – real mainstays those are.

So that’s it for this week on the Switch eShop in the UK! Join us next Sunday when we see if Football Manager can remain on top. It probably can, it’s football.

Steam is Pretty Much Gone for Indies…

Admit it, you all saw it coming right?

 

Steam has been heading down this path for a long time, and as the monopoly force behind digital distribution for PC games it has just sat and done nothing.

 

So what has happened? Well FDG Entertainment revealed that yes, Blossom Tales on Nintendo Switch in only three months, outsold its Steam release by 20 to 1. This has allowed the developer to stay in business.

A game styled like Zelda on PC has every opportunity to explode into a critical and commercial success on Steam. Low barrier to entry, great game, great basis, all a recipe for success. Alas, Steam failed.

It failed to deliver on what should have been a smash hit. It was buried under the waves of hundreds of weekly games and tech demos poured onto Steam in a market with no curation whatsoever. But that one move over to a console gave it all the light it needed.

It cannot be understated, it kept a company in business by moving away from what IS and SHOULD BE a huge market.

But it isn’t, at least not anymore, and its unlikely to ever be again.

share_steam_logo

Steam has long been the bastion of indie games, propelling lesser known studios to stardom to then propel their own games with their own marketing bucks to an even wider audience, rather than risking being a drop in the bucket trying to make a wave by luck.

Of course now, you are almost guaranteed to be a mere drop in the bucket. Steam doesn’t care. It got its fee – the users likely can’t find you, curators can’t curate, the market is over saturated.

The recent Nindies Showcase, while showcasing 14 games, was met with a lot of “Is that new”? Turns out a lot of the games are coming FROM Steam, where people didn’t even know they existed!

steam-greenlight

Back with Steam Greenlight, a mess though it was, games were announced to be coming to Steam via the program. It was a big deal. Now with Direct, the entry fees haven’t changed – the curation has demonstrably gotten worse – and the games just sort of…appear.

That’s all that happens. Games just…show up. No fanfare. Valve got your money now go try to sell yourself amid the wave of new games coming tomorrow.

 

A better way to word it, is imagine trying to sell your game, but your only chance at making enough money to break even is to basically be the Wii. A flash of lightning in a bottle. That system got huge success due to the right ideas to the right people at the right time.

On Steam, you need to be lightning in a bottle, and it needs to be immediate, or the wave of sewage will come and douse you.

 

Oh, and Steam also has THIS issue:

 

So that is where we are now. Games are finding more success on curated store fronts, where the console makers, Sony withstanding it seems, are more than happy to push indie games. They know these small developers will one day be the big shots. It’s a shame Valve has left itself become complacent.

 

As for the PC side, I can’t see things changing. Valve is in a position to not be challenged in distribution, so unless a platform for indies appears and explodes, you’ll have to be lightning in a bottle. Every day on Steam that window gets smaller and smaller though.

 

Thanks for reading and sorry for the huge delay and absence! Things will begin to pick up slowly! Let us know what you think of these revelations (It was obvious really) and see you all next time! Happy Gaming!

Why Am I Leaning Towards Digital Games?

I find myself asking this a lot lately. Why am I just wanting games digitally?

 

Even though I can save a few pounds buying a game physically from Amazon, or other independent retailers, in recent months I have found myself simply opting for digital releases.

I suppose part is just being on-board with the inevitable digital only future of gaming, and having an internet speed to sustain it. Plus, the only games sold in my town are from supermarkets, which is generally limited to the major annual releases like FIFA on PS4 and Xbox.

Speaking of those systems, honestly I want to move to full digital anyway. Discs are simply an inconvenience, as they install to your storage space anyway, leaving the only difference being the speed at which they do so, and limiting how freely you access your game –  a disc must be inserted to play the game if it came from a physical copy.

In those cases, I would go digital not just out of convenience of having everything there at my fingertips, but to dodge an inconvenience.

On PC, well you don’t get much choice there. Digital only.

 

On Switch is where this dilemma has arisen. Limited storage aside, I find myself toying with digital more than I anticipated. Convenience is again the main factor. Don’t need to fiddle with boxes and game cards, just tap and go. Fast, simple and easy. Plus pre-loading gets your games at midnight with no fuss.

Of course this is true for any system – convenience.

 

The bulk of my move to digital is in fact due to other circumstances away from the consoles themselves. Delivery times are getting longer and in the past year there have been many instances of games having incorrect tracking for delivery, going missing, being late, and other errors from online retailers.

Of course why go online? I could go to a store, but the nearest one is 12 miles away.

 

Let’s start with Amazon. They give you discounts on pre-orders for games, and that’s great. I attempted to order Kirby Star Allies but was informed delivery would be past the release date…a bit odd.

Of course I expect this from Amazon now, as the past few games from them have been late. Pokemon Ultra Moon had incorrect tracking that stated it was delivered, but didn’t show up until 4 days after launch. Sonic Forces didn’t dispatch until launch day due to an issue with payment that I wasn’t notified of…until launch day.

 

The Nintendo UK Store isn’t absolved of this either. Usually very good about games on time, though Metroid: Samus Returns arrived late, as did Paper Mario Colour Splash in 2016. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 almost came late, and via a different tracker, but arrived on the correct day.

The big mark on them though, is the launch of Nintendo Switch. Here in the UK order tracking was incorrect, with orders not arriving until the day after launch…with no indication, from a different carrier.

 

This has been a recurring trend around me lately, with orders missing, errors in transit, or straight up delays, and after a while consumer confidence will be knocked. Many have had great results with retailers getting games on time, but for me it has been too many too frequently, and so just like the PS4, I would rather dodge an inconvenience.

My History with YouTube, and Capcom’s with the EU Market…

A dual article for you today, covering both my history with the YouTube social media platform and its recent changes, and the insanity that is Capcom EU.

unnamed

So my history with YouTube is a storied one. I started back in 2009, May to be exact. Playing games, going for completion, all that good stuff. I was 13, and I hate thinking about it! But we all start somewhere.

Over the 9 years I took a two-year gap for my education before a re-launch with my friends, where we all played games together and the company made it easier for me to talk, and be more confident.

This continued, we got a capture card, now replaced with a superior model, and it maintained until 2016 when I finally got off my butt and got a decent PC for better quality both audio wise and for visuals.

btguni

Back in 2013 YouTube changed the rules for the partnership program, allowing almost anyone to become monetized. Now YouTube was never about the money, personally I do it because gaming is my passion, and as the years went on I felt more and more confident in my media abilities.

When this change happened, I set a goal: Only allow myself into the program when I reached a goal I felt was acceptable.

By September 2014, I was part of an excellent MCN, and had the support of a community and staff behind it when needed. I only did this when I felt right, not when YouTube told me.

wutt

But growth felt like it stalled. My drive died over the 3 years I was at university…like everything else in my life at the time, and I felt quality, quantity and more fell behind. I began thinking of format changes, right around the time I knew I was moving back home, coincidentally right alongside the announcement that YouTube would change its policies slightly to create a 10,000 lifetime view requirement for channels to be monetized, back in April 2017.

Then of course 9 months later the goalposts moved again. Now it’s 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours of watch time in 12 months, in addition to the lifetime views. As such, we lost access to monetization and any features associated with being partnered – What those are, I am not sure and nor is my former-MCN, because honestly expecting YouTube to communicate is laughable.

But that announcement was what finally spurred me on with those changes to format, moving to a live format, mostly on Twitch, and making a wider transmedia brand. Seeing the goalposts constantly move not even a year apart with little warning, poor communication and more, led me to make the moves I don’t regret one bit.

Making content is easier and better looking. I can engage with the audience more. Everything worked out better. If I ever become eligible for Twitch Affiliate status or more, chances are I wont take it, just like with the partner program, until I hit MY goals, not one set by a platform, that will likely change arbitrarily within 9 months.

Do I disagree with why YouTube made these moves? No. YouTube is a near constant black hole for Google and something had to be done when media began blasting it for monetised content that really shouldn’t be monetised. What I don’t agree with is the poor communication on what will and won’t be available to those affected, nor the guarantee the goalposts won’t constantly move.

 

Capcom_logo

 

Now, on to Capcom, since we are talking about financial black holes.

 

Capcom and the EU market have what I would call a bad relationship. Back in the NES and SNES days, let’s take Mega Man for instance, Nintendo or some other random publisher had to publish the games here for them, which lead to Mega Man 6 never being released here until the 3DS happened.

But the Mega Man Collections on PS2 were never published here either. Mega Man Star Force 3 never made it here. Battle Network was published by Ubisoft in the region.

Jump forward to now and you would think the issues of the past were gone, but no. Both Mega Man Legacy Collections have physical releases on PS4, Xbox One and Switch…but not here. Couldn’t tell you why, I’m sure only Capcom knows.

This is next to the laughable cheap skate attitude around the Switch port of the Legacy Collection Double Pack, which has a 500MB at most game on the card, with a download code for the 6GB game. Why? Capcom.

mmlc

Of course we don’t even get that release here. Digital only.

Resident Evil Revelations got the same treatment on Switch. Here in the EU there are physical releases of both games on other systems, but not Switch, and Capcom cited “monetary reasons”. Basically they don’t see the market for it.

I have to say thank God for digital, otherwise it’d be the 90s and 2000s again for us.

But this goes beyond Capcom now. Nintendo is publishing the physical EU release of Dark Souls, for some reason. Is the EU really that hard for publishers? Are most 3rd party Switch games going to be handled by external publishers now if we want them here at retail?

 

Capcom has slipped back to treating the EU like it did in the 90s. Limited physical releases and even then only on certain systems, or mandatory downloads for Switch games you get physically. Of course Capcom isn’t the only one guilty of this, and in the case of Revelations there was a logistical reason for it, but for Mega Man, someone should let them know 8GB cards exist.

The way other publishers are going about things, especially on Switch, the EU regions feel more and more like a last-minute effort market. Maybe it’s the multiple expensive ratings boards like PEGI and USK. Maybe it’s the currencies, or the logistics across borders. Who knows.
All I know is the EU market is becoming the afterthought again, and if that is the case, the digital future can’t come soon enough. Even then we get games months late.

Sony’s Backwards Compatibility on PS4…is Bad.

Sony needs to remember that the PS2 set the standard for native backwards compatibility when they say “No one really uses it”.

 

I cannot fathom what is happening over there now, beyond having enough sales to justify doing whatever they want: The backwards compatibility on PS4 for PS2 games (Which yes does exist), is absolute horrendous.

So I hope it goes without saying, but the PS2 set the standard with native PSone support, and the games ran fine. This was part of the hardware, all was well, this was then followed by the Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360 (Somewhat), DS, 3DS, you get the idea. The standard was set by PS2.

Jump forward to PS3, it had PS2 hardware to run PS2 games in it, but that was later removed to save money, a wise choice under the circumstances. However, the ability to pop your PSone CD in and play away remained, and again, it ran fine.

What the PS3 did eventually allow, was the ability to download PS1 and some PS2 games as “Classics” and play them, only emulated.

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PS2 Classics on PS3 as emulated titles is a mistake. Let’s take Sonic Heroes for instance, which is available as a PS3 download and emulated on PS3. Frame rate problems (More so than the original!) and some errors that I can’t really explain, like boss text not fading away properly. It’s not the best.

But to compound the issue let’s look at PSone Classics, namely the Spyro Trilogy, and we begin with THIS little gem, courtesy of the PlayStation Blog from 2011 (Yes, I remember).

The journey from PSone disc to PSone emulation can be a long one – here’s the short version.
We make sure we’ve got a good copy of the original disk (or discs if there are localised versions), then the game is cleared for publish by our legal department.
Why are some games available on the US Store but not available on the EU Stores?
The million dollar question…
This usually comes down to either publishing rights or bugs that occur within the emulated PAL version that did not occur within the NTSC emulated version. There are several PAL titles that don’t play well with the emulator because of a PAL-only copy protection system that was used in several key releases, and sometimes other bugs occur at random.

Source

tenor

So what do I mean? Well with the Spyro Trilogy we got the American localizations (The system doesn’t hide this fact!). What sucks is this “It needs to be bug free and play well with the emulator” is absolute horse manure.

The three Spyro games on PS3, at least in the UK, have near constant slow down, frame drops, and musical errors. Yet if I pop my PS CD in there and play it from a disk…it’s fine. Flawless. What happened? Is the emulator that bad? Why not just make the games run natively?

Of course even native ports aren’t safe. The HD re-release of Ratchet and Clank 3 as part of the Ratchet and Clank HD Trilogy is a mess, with audio screw ups, either mis-timed or bad loops, and even scripted cutscenes playing out wrong (Just look up the Momma Tyhrannoid fight from 3 for that spectacle!). So when bringing over past games either as emulations of remasters, the track record isn’t great.

 

bullshit

 

Now we get to the big one: The PlayStation 4, the most powerful base system of the time. It outpaces the Nvidia Shield, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One quite comfortably. You’ll see why I mentioned those shortly.

For reference, the Xbox and Gamecube surpassed the PS2 in performance, PS2 games were nowhere near as demanding or advanced in fidelity or polygon counts.

So this begs the question, why does the PS4, again a powerful system, have issues emulating the PS2, when the weaker Xbox One and Nvidia Shield can emulate the more advanced-than-PS2 systems in Xbox and Gamecube, with no issues?

 

In these two videos you can see frame drops, skipping images, jumping images, it’s all over the place and a total mess.

Sure we get up-scaled to 1080p and trophy support…but if the trade off is a terrible performing PS2 game on a PS4, then what is the point?

I have yet to try Jak 3 and personally I don’t want to, but the original Jak and Daxter was no better, with some moments becoming brief slide shows and one boss fight running routinely below 30fps it felt like.

dafuqdafuq2

 

Now the coup de grace: Both the PS3 releases as part of the HD Trilogy, and these PS2 Classics for Jak, have separate trophy lists, however, I can easily check both from my PS4, mobile app, website…the list goes on. It’s evident the two sets of games, despite being the same games, have separate lists.

This is something I can easily check, yet for some reason, despite trophies being a part of my account and Sony being very capable of checking if I already own the games, you don’t get a discount on these facades of PS2 “Classics”. Full price, which is upwards of £30.

To compound this further, the PS3 re-releases I actually bought digitally, and thus is part of my account’s purchase history! Still no discount. Unlike Microsoft, who let you pop a disk in and download it onto Xbox One when available (Something the PS4 could do with your original PS1 and 2 disks!) to see if you bought physical copies, or simply checking your account and giving you the games if you already downloaded them….you need to pay again.

Hell, let’s get really archaic with the Wii. That didn’t even have an account system, your purchases for the Virtual Console were locked to your hardware, but via system transfer, your Wii U can see what games you already had on Wii Virtual Console, and gives you a very sizeable discount on the Wii U versions when available!

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Yes. Even the damn Wii got this right. It was cumbersome, but they found a way to do it. But here, all the data is right there, multiple times over as it happens, in my account and…nothing. Full price please, have some butchered releases.

I don’t like that.

 

To end, I’ll quote my favourite man who should himself hire some PR guys: Jim Ryan! Remember what he said about backwards compatibility?

“That, and I was at a Gran Turismo event recently where they had PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games, and the PS1 and the PS2 games, they looked ancient, like why would anybody play this?”

You know what Jim? I have to somewhat agree. Except instead of criticising the graphics, I’ll modify your statement a little.

The PS1 and PS2 games, they ran worse than they did initially, even though it’s far more capable hardware, like why would anybody play this?

That’s the question I find myself asking. Why? There is absolutely no reason for it to be this way. Everything about Sony’s approach to backwards compatibility is wrong, which is a shame as they spurred it into an industry standard.

Plus, Jim Ryan, at the rate you all churn out these maligned releases, for the sheer gaps between releases, for all the effort that clearly goes into these, if this is the resultant quality….keep them.

 

Thanks for reading! What do you think about PS4 BC in this day and age? Is it acceptable? Let me know in comments or on social media, and until next time, Happy Gaming!

 

A Degree In Game Design and a Lesson For Our Future…

You guys might want to sit down for this.

So you all know I have become disillusioned with my degree as a Game Designer, I mean I did fail after all. It’s become something I see, and many others see online, a reflection of the negatives of the industry. I always believe if you are creating a form of entertainment, you should make it your best efforts, otherwise a lack of enjoyment from users will mean it wasn’t entertaining. Catch my drift?

So, for simplicity sake, we are going to go through the classes and some anecdotes of my time studying Computer Games Design, explain why I am self-taught, what we were taught, what the marking states we are expected to do in the industry, and how we are expected to progress as individuals and businesses.
So, let’s start at the start.

They hate Nintendo: I’m just getting this done with now, because it’s the most bassackwards kind of thing you’ve ever heard. So when discussing what game systems sold the most, just as a bit of general knowledge, we had 5 options.

Game Boy
Wii
PlayStation
PlayStation 2
DS

So, we had a logical question: Obviously it is PS2 right? Well we asked, for obvious reasons, does that include hardware revisions like the DSi? They said yes, so stuff like the GBA counts towards Game Boy sales as it’s the same thing.

To these people, teaching the young folk of the industry, the GBA is just a Game Boy. Not new hardware, not new games, just a Game Boy. I did point out (After promptly bashing my head of a table like several others in the room did), that this would mean the Wii U did very well, and the PS4 is well over 400 million units by now, if we use that logic.

They stood by it, so whatever. They also said Wii U games can’t be near the size of Blu-Ray, and Nintendo doesn’t make big games anyway so why expect AAAs. (This was before Switch, I must stress). This was a collective head bash again, as the Wii U discs go to 25GB.

There was a blatant love of false information, it was disheartening to see, but as time went on it just becomes numbing as opposed to shocking. For people who worked in the industry one would expect them to be accurate with what they teach to the future.

Be at the forefront of new technology….that we want you to be at: Do you know how fast they were all over PS4 Pro? PSVR? Sony partnered uni for you. Interns there are making VR games, even. That’s cool. That was one of many blooming fields in gaming right now, and I fully support it.

So when I had the opportunity to demo Nintendo Switch, on my own time and money, and be given some of the opportunities I have now (Through my own actions and skill, not theirs, I have to add), they weren’t happy. Why? This is something I’ve never gotten a straight answer on. You tell us to be at the forefront for new and exciting stuff, but seemingly only if it suits them.

They think platformers are outdated. Cant have running and jumping no more. We were actively discouraged from making those for level design courses which didn’t make much sense, given that’s an excellent show of designing a level regarding flow, player abilities and more.
Now we move on to the content, I have more anecdotes about their very weird views on what we should be doing, because some of it is flat-out restrictive to making games and content, but those will pop up in the next section

Year 1

Production: Making 12 page Game Design Documentation, and small prototypes. This is all fine and good. There was an inordinate amount of time spent on writing stories (I have no idea why they spent that long on that, it was at least 5 weeks), but they did cover some handy things like progression through a game and mechanics. This was pretty good. Only downside was very little, maybe 1 week, of programming, which means making the actual game was….a challenge. Even then it was copy/pasted code.

Plus, and this is important to bring up, I have come to understand that I design games in the “Japanese” way as opposed to the “Western” way. It just suits my workflow better. Shorter documents, different primary focus, where western focus is on visuals, character and story, mine and seemingly eastern focus, is on gameplay. Those have priority in the official documentation.

I was marked down for that, with the specific words that…I was wrong. Doing something wrong, yet only doing the same thing differently because it suited me. University, and especially a creative field, was being judged on academic criteria, which is counter to the nature of the field.

Creative Design: This started strong. Making company logos, scene concept art, character concept art, promo materials, all good stuff. But that was just half of it. The 2nd half, bear in mind this was mandatory to pass, involved making an interactive magazine, with a video review of content, and amazingly enough, a prediction of the future of something we have interest in.

So I said, based on previous industries like phones and PCs, and them having peripherals to play handheld games on consoles, and console ports on handhelds, that Nintendo will create some kind of hybrid system.

They said we aren’t giving you the marks, as that’s not realistic, citing Nintendo wont be around and the technology isn’t there yet to make it compelling. You can imagine my feelings on this now.

I never did get awarded those marks.

3D Modelling: I have no issue with this. Despite not being very arty, its relevant and covered everything from individual models to whole scenes. This was good, very good in fact.

Web Development: Making websites. In a games design course. Yep. People had the option to do Flash animations as well, as an alternative, but neither are super relevant. You could say Flash based games are, but this was 2014, Flash was already outdated and soon after deprecated.
Year 2

3D Animations: No problem here. Make 3D animations. My only issue was, amazingly, being put in a group half the size needed for group work, one of whom didn’t work, and the other didn’t want me as part of the team. So I opted to redo it and still failed, as I was then stuck doing a 6-man job as an individual.

Level Design: Relevant. Don’t know why they pushed CryEngine so much, as I think everyone universally hated it, both years I did it. This was one I had to redo because despite having the right sized team, one guy actively faked doing work until he vanished 4 weeks prior, so all I had was code and no assets, and the other guy, bless him he is lovely, doesn’t do any good standard of work. The new team was far better, despite having to teach myself C++ for Unreal Engine 4, because the uni seems to have some weird aversion to teaching how to actually make the game part of a video game.

Mobile App Development: What has this to do with games? Nothing. It was mobile website development, by the way, just thinly veiled. Had to make apps to track people via Google Maps. Riveting.

Had the same lovely guy from Level Design working with me on this one, never did any work, had to teach myself PHP for server-side stuff, because they wouldn’t teach that for some reason (again) despite being half of the marks. Turns out he went and made SASS sheets that were just HTML formatted incorrectly, so we had to scramble! The teaching focused solely on front end: Visuals and appearance.

Games Programming: It was a train wreck. A good attempt but most didn’t get it (Heck I didn’t get it) as the information wasn’t being conveyed in a way that made it learnable, it was just pure here’s some code away you go slap it together. The attempt at teaching programming was a copy and paste effort. Not productive in the slightest, and in hindsight was vastly over-complicated for what needed to be done. You don’t start teaching programming to some students who have never touched an IDE by having them make AI.

User Interaction: Critiquing UI across devices and suitability for things like VR and such. I didn’t do this one, wouldn’t let me because I didn’t do Flash animation (Why?) but, at least it was relevant to the field.

Multimedia Web Development: This was an extension of making apps except it was making videos and images for web-based viewing. Game Design remember?

Audio: Smashing stuff. Didn’t do this, because I didn’t do Flash, but hey they you go. Another relevant one.

Professional Awareness: You know I have no idea what this is? Talking to people who did it, they didn’t either. It was something to do with team work. Can’t really fault that from the outside, but the confused responses I saw from people made me think it was one of those “token classes”.

Year 3 

Here we go. So a note, they wouldn’t let me do the group project or individual research project. I’m going to get to something else they didn’t let me do this year as well, at the end.

Advanced Concepts in Gaming: Debate issues around gaming such as women’s rights, sex, violence, anthropomorphism, realism, middleware and so on. We had to make either a realistic building render, a character creator (Which I did, guess what there was a complete lack of material on? Yes there really was NO teaching on what the hell they even expected!) or a transmedia narrative, spanning multiple devices.

Basically glorified marketing. I actually failed this one, because for whatever reason, my side of the debate, when it came to the debate, didn’t back me up in the slightest. Didn’t help every debate prior had been a one sentence thing, while this was a paragraph on why anthropomorphism is bad for games as it is dehumanizing. Overall, this wasn’t a bad idea, it just wasn’t…a good marking thing? It’s hard to explain. Like why the class existed was okay, but what you had to do to pass was all kinds of arbitrary.

Digital 3D Effects: Make a 90 second CGI movie. Take real footage and CG something in. And make a documentary about making it. Teams of 4, I got a team of 2, with the nice guy who does nothing from Level Design again.

Side note, the people in the class did say “Thanks for taking one for the team”. Cheeky sods.

But again, this is Game Design. Making CGI/Live Action movies? I….alright? I don’t see the relevance unless you wanted to do pre-rendered cutscenes.

But the good part: So being colour-blind I can’t composite shots very well. I can’t get the tones right, so I directed the location shoots, designed a monster for a monster movie trailer, animated it, gave it all to the lovely guy to do, while I worked on a documentary using shots of the cut up work with narration to explain what we did. It was easy marks for him, and he couldn’t possibly screw this one up.

Boy did he ever. For some reason he used barely any effects, had terrible audio balancing, used his own static image for a monster it was just….I had some alcohol that night. It totally invalidated the documentary as well, which didn’t help marks.

But to compound things, he did ask for feedback, and by the time I was done watching the…monstrosity…he had constructed, he messaged me to tell me it was submitted.

I became a very good friend of Mr. Jack Daniels that night.

Indie Game Development: Here we go. The things you need to know when making a small studio. Great right? It also went over ways to make money and such. Didn’t cover talking to other companies or acquiring anything for development but hey, priorities.

When writing out a business plan however, we were required to plan out DLC and micro-transactions (Not just for marking purposes), but it is a requirement they want us to do when we plan a game. They want us to put MTAs and DLC in from the start.
And I didn’t do that. I openly object to that.

Also, this required submission of .exe files and code via electronic submission. All handy right? Electronic submissions don’t allow zips, rar files, code files or exe files. Whoops. Another mismanagement. You can’t submit it electronically due to restrictions on what can be uploaded, but the only submission was electronic.

Advanced Concepts in Web Production: Judging by what Advanced Concepts in Gaming was about….probably the same but Web-based. Again though, it’s Game Design.

Creative Visualisation and Animation: Do you know those Casually Explained videos that have neat animations explaining things and how they work? It’s that. Make that. Pick something and explain how it works via animation. Game Design.

And that’s the course structure. As you can see, a lot of it is irrelevant to the actual subject, but it’s what you didn’t see that worries me more. While a fair chunk of it is relevant, even within those, there are alarming holes, not most beyond teaching some dodgy practices and business moves.

Firstly: Where the hell was optimisation? I cannot stress this enough. We weren’t taught how to optimise anything, even for PC. Looking back it was mentioned in passing, like what it is and why you do it, but nothing on it. When submitting something, hardware just has to brute force it.

Secondly: Programming! They tried, bless, but it was so poorly done, in addition to a lot of mismanagement, it’s worrying that they hand wave the key component of making a game interactive. The bit that makes the game a game.
There was a week where Intel were coming around and allegedly offering job opportunities (Now why Intel came to game designers to offer them jobs, some of whom wont pass for two years, is a mystery) but it happened. Interns ran interviews, and all was well. Got emails and checked the sites for the list of times and such, find my allotted time.

This was a mandatory thing that had to be done by all second and third year students.
Long list of names, covering all second and third year students, both in the e-mail and on the website.

Except me.

I had been withheld from an opportunity that was listed as mandatory I must stress, and they never once said why. They never once said “We don’t want you there”, they just never let me do it and never mentioned it to me. I asked my housemate, once they revealed they were one of the people doing the interviews. They said they didn’t know why either. The staff pretend it never happened.

Now, they had, since day one, said we should be striving on our own as well. Working on games in the background, and eventually, trying to get relations with developers and publishers who visit for talks, see the exhibitions at the end of every year, and so on.

So, being a guy who likes to make progress, I did the numbers, looked at what games I wanted to make, so on and so forth, and by the half way point of that first year of learning, I was already talking to the first company I even spoke to.

But here is my thing. They say go to the new tech. Make the games you think people will enjoy. Work with people, who get you where you want to be. But it has become increasingly apparent, that it doesn’t apply to certain companies. I don’t know the exact reason why, I don’t know for what purpose, but I have been locked out of opportunities on many occasions beyond the egregious one I listed, ever since I took their initiative, showed initiative, and made myself known.

They refused to let me go and demo the Nintendo Switch in London, on my own time and money. Obviously I went anyway!

At the end of the day I got ahead, did as they asked, and I was pushed away by it. And that’s on a personal level, the worst aspect, that doing what I want and what they said I should do, has led to being left on the side.

This led to a serious downward spiral for my health both mentally and physically. I hope it is the only time I need medication for depression and anxiety, because lord knows it was a rough time.

But here is my final thought on the matter.

In a lot of ways, I have enjoyed myself. I have learned things, that granted, I did pick up over time just by playing games and being analytical about them, but the doesn’t excuse the gaps in knowledge, some of which is crucial, and the blatant irrelevancy and mismanagement of the course in general. For £9000 tuition fee per year, and all the loans I’ll have to repay?

It needs to be better.

That is 100% the truth. This is the education an actual institution is giving students who, god forbid if this standard maintains, will be making games in the near future. Aggressive monetization, dodgy practices, lapses in knowledge. Yes they can’t reasonably teach everything, but they could at least teach well and relevant.

Universities are ultimately a business, and this was a course that I personally feel was misleading. It positioned itself as one thing, with freedom, and revealed itself to be a stifling, counter-intuitive, sometimes random mismatched bunch of classes marked academically to judge creativity: And the problem with that is, if you don’t fall in line with that is expected, creativity can be shunned.

Battlefront 2 Didn’t “Meet Expectations”, and Nintendo Made Bank!

I’m surprised about both of these stories for different reasons.

 

Update – 2/2/2018

So we all failed to note one thing about the entire lootbox backlash to Star Wars Battlefront 2: EA wins either way.

Here’s the thing: If gamers didn’t give backlash to EA in such force that sales were impacted, then the game would have sold as expected, and EA would be justified in continuing their current practices.

As a result of the backlash, EA has noted lower sales of Battlefront 2, and we figured it would send a message. It hasn’t. In fact it’s response to investors was that in-app purchases will return as previously noted, but now with the added note that those purchases can be used to make up for the lost sales, justifying their inclusion.

Personally I can’t fault that logic. That is actually sound business practices there, so well done to them on that. The downside is we end up in the potential situation we began fighting back against in the first place-

If EA knows micro-transactions will cut into sales, but make up the lost revenue, why wouldn’t they keep them in, when the alternative is losing that revenue AND sales?

In response their stock has hit all time highs.

As I said, sound business sense to cover for potential losses but…I guess we can hope the big stink that was raised about lootboxes leads to some legislation huh?

Original Story

Let’s start with Nintendo, namely 3DS. It’s sales are down year on year, yes, but it’s also nearly 7 years old. Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon sold 7.17 million units. So good stuff for the budget entry into the ecosystem.

The real story is the premium system: Nintendo Switch. Within just shy of 10 months, as of December 31st 2017, Switch has outsold the first 12 months of the PS4, at 14.86 million units. That is firstly maddening to see, but also shows the 3 month holiday period accounted for half of the lifetime sales so far.

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So in doing so, it has also surpassed the Wii U, so comparisons can finally stop on that front. The system has shown itself to be a viable platform for many developers, and I can only hope this continues. Next stop is the 21 million of the Gamecube!

On to software however, we see a few interesting pick ups. Firstly that Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has sold 1.06 million in just a month, placing it firmly in the heights of its franchise, an excellent result for a release many people thought flopped due to low sales charts rankings.

Next is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, a re-release of a Wii U game that many seemingly didn’t want, having already owned it, logically, but one I and many others assumed would do well due to now hitting a much larger market, many of whom simply won’t have played Wii U games. Evidently the latter is true as the release has hit 7.33 million units and is well on its way to surpassing the original Mario Kart 8. As an evergreen title, it will surpass that, and shows that yes, if a port goes to a new, bigger audience, it probably isn’t a bad idea, you know?

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Finally of note is Super Mario Odyssey, selling 9.07 million units in just two months, and becoming the top-selling software on the system, and the 2nd best-selling Mario title ever in the main series, only behind New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Could it beat out that game? Possibly, we need to see if it remains as evergreen, as 3D Mario typically falls below 2D Mario.

Full financials are available here: Source

But what really gets me is how Mario Odyssey performed compared to another game of note…

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It’s time to talk about everyone’s favourite game ever: Star Wars Battlefront 2. EA seems disappointed by its performance, namely how if we include digital sales to physical shipped copies to retailers…it’s around 7 million units. It’s going to fall well below what they told investors it would hit by March, as well as falling below the prior Star Wars title.

So for reference, Battlefront 2 fell below a game like Super Mario Odyssey, that was only released on a single platform. That’s insane.

But the proof is in the pudding. Legislation is being looked at for lootboxes, because of course they are, and EA is blaming consumer backlash. Not only that, Bioware developers are feeling stressed over the inevitable forced monetization EA will make them include in Anthem, a game that seemingly could spell the end for the studio, understandably given EA’s record.

Micro-transactions are to be reintroduced to the game in the coming months “When the time is right”, but EA is already feeling the burn. Gamers weren’t happy, investors won’t be happy.

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Sadly I do feel EA will learn nothing from this, but if nothing else it acts as a sign.

With the previous comments of people not wanting single player games, games costing too much to make thus mandating additional, aggressive monetization and the like, to see Super Mario Odyssey, on a system EA dismissed no less, outsell the game and probably due to less extravagant spending by Nintendo, make more money than Battlefront 2 has in all likelihood, is a huge slap in the face to EA.

Words cannot accurately describe how EA must be feeling right now, but it proves that gamers just want good games, especially from Star Wars, and even stuff like cosmetics can be done for free, and games don’t need to cost as much as EA pumps into them.

It’s  a sign that the AAA business model is inherently flawed and self-destructive. Where one company prospers by tightly controlling expenditure and not pursuing aggressive monetization in full price games, another gets knocked back for saying that model wont work, and then seeing the alternative is more damaging, at least in the short-term.

It’s that short-term that needs to be taken away from this, as that is the primary interest of a majority of investors: Short term profits. In the long-term EA is likely to be fine, but in the short term the fall of Battlefront 2 to something like Mario Odyssey, a business model EA has repeatedly dismissed, just shows what the market wants.

 

Make good games, and they shall come. Don’t be stupid with your games and licenses, and they shall come. Then everybody wins.

Why I Play Games and Why I Sometimes Hate It

In a deeply personal examination, I explain why I play games, why I find it hard to play games, and why others may be the same.

 

So I recently turned 22, a ripe young age I know, but I feel a lot older. Significantly older as it happens, and I find myself wondering why. It’s because I’m tired.

I am incredibly tired. Not physically, but mentally: Exhausted. I find myself playing games a lot, it’s what I do, but why I do it, and why it has exhausted me, are related.

 

So a lot of people play games for fun, a hobby, or a job. For me, and many others, it is escapism. It always has been.

I started playing games with the Mega Drive and PlayStation, specifically Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot 2/3, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2. I would have been 2/3 years old at the time. Yes I did start very early in my life, and not with the easiest games to begin with either!

Video games were a sanctuary for me. I wasn’t very sporty (I can play sports quite competently though), nor was I one for going outside. The latter is simple – Around the time I found my interest in games and technology, was the time I started school: The time the bullying started.

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So what happened? Well until the end of my GCSEs (Age 16 for you not-British folks!) I was bullied in some form near daily. Sometimes physically, most often verbally. So I became sheltered. Not anti-social, lord knows I wouldn’t be here if I was, but someone who simply doesn’t spend a lot of time worrying about parties, drinking, going out. I’m a desk sitter.

So games were my past-time. Something to do when I wasn’t out playing with other children. Losing myself in fantasy worlds, being heroes, beating bosses, getting 100%, those years on the PS2 were magical. But then I turned 10.

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Suddenly all the games I played weren’t cool: Yes, it was the time all the kids my age jumped onto Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty despite…being horribly underage, and there I am, just being introduced to Pokemon via Pokemon Ruby for the first time on my first Nintendo system and falling in love, playing the latest Jak and Ratchet games on PS2 and PSP. When I brought these things up, I was bullied for playing kids games…despite being a kid. Child logic is weird.

I was chastised for playing these lighter games that were not only age appropriate, but held my interest, and for playing on kiddy systems instead of the Xbox at the time. This would have been 2004 to 2006 I believe, and of course the Xbox 360 came out, and I had a Wii. Well, everyone did, but I never used my 360. So that became a thing I was bullied for too.

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Then I got a DS, continued playing Pokemon through my teens, got introduced to Mario and Smash Bros and all these other franchises, continued with Sonic and Ratchet on PS3 when I got one in 2010. What few friends I were able to make, and who are still around today to my surprise, had the same interests. But to the hundreds of other students at that school? It was a huge target on your back to play games like these openly.

This is when the bullying was at its worst. There is nothing more vindictive than a hormonal teenager looking to let off steam, and as the designated “Bullied kid”, every school had one, that was on me, for who I am and the games I play.

 

I see similar stories, and I heard it from others while I was at university. The same thing happened to loads of people, bullied for playing certain games. Why? This confused me but upon discovering the wider internet as I started university, I saw what it was.

So all of the above things, bullied for certain games, talked down to, it may all seem familiar.

Go to any message board, look up the PC Master Race, as it is called, or even some “Professionals” in the games media. The air of elitism, “I’m better than you”, it seeps out in comments sections but the motives and methods are the same to this day: Demean someone else’s gaming habits and feel better in doing so.

It’s bullying. It’s the same bullying. Yet I sit and wonder why I simply sigh at comments like that, the inevitable comments, from every side, be it Xbox, PC, Sony, Nintendo, Mobile, the list goes on, across many mediums in fact. It all fills me with the same disgust: Why would I get involved? What does it get me? Nothing, but it sure does remind me of my time at school, as it will to many.

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For the longest time I used games as a way to forget about my bullying, to learn about technology, something I was deeply immersed in and still am. But over time it became something used by the bullying, and that’s when the depression sprang up like a bad weed.

There are days, weeks even, where I don’t want to play games. It’s usually after seeing comments, unavoidable comments, or people, or mind-sets, that just bum me out.

There is something to be said for thick skin, but even rocks on the coast are worn down by tides with enough frequency. You can only do some much before needing a break, some reprieve.

The internet and this modern age of gaming has largely proven itself to just be a horrifying extension of my and many other’s time at school.

The console wars are bullying, though no one on either side would admit it, but they know for sure they feel it.

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But to conclude this analysis of why many play games and just what happens if you dare go online these days, I want to end by looping back to my time at university, at least briefly.

For all of a train wreck as that was, with teammates not working or bluntly dropping out 4 weeks before a deadline, terrible teaching for what was meant to be “Game Design”, there was this elitism lingering around the place.

In January 2017 I was invited by Nintendo to London to try the Nintendo Switch out, something that *anyone* would jump at. Early on I remember the university said they wanted us at the forefront of new tech, which is an amazing concept. We even had PSVR dev kits and had interns making VR software, it was great.

But they didn’t want me going to try the Switch. In fact there was this feeling that Nintendo…wasn’t a thing. It was very much a PS4/PSVR thing. Xbox got mentioned due to similar architecture, but was similarly dismissed. We learned nothing in the way of coding or optimisation either, but we sure did learn how to aggressively monetize games.

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I was being given opportunities and striving forward on my own, something any institution would be happy for, but they didn’t want me doing that. I was even excluded from what were “Mandatory” events, and I wish I knew why. All I can assume is that just like with the bullies in my schools, or the people online engaging in never-ending flame wars…I fell outside of what they wanted.

 

And that’s just the thing. You can’t please everyone. But you can do your best to be nice. For nearly two decades now, being it from tutors, peers, random people online, I have had the same experience day in and day out. The games I play aren’t good enough for them, and they feel like they should shout it at me.

Personally, I will always be this way. I will have times where it does get me down. There are reasons I walk that fine line of “You do you”. If someone wants to play games of their choosing how they choose, then fine. That’s them. They have the right to, and I can’t stop them, nor is it my place to tell them how that makes me feel.

But that has been a rare stance I notice. It’s okay to be a fan of something, lord knows everyone is, but fanboyism, tribalism, this bullying, it is something I want to see stop. Sadly I don’t think it ever can.

 

I grew up telling myself I wasn’t going to be the people at school. I wouldn’t treat people like that. All I can do is laugh, and sigh, and move on at each instance like I always have.

But I know for some that isn’t so simple. Some people take it way too far, and it’s those instance that make me write things like this. We all love games. Why do there need to be lines between us?

Behind The Game Podcast – Episode 1! 27/01/2018

Welcome to the first Behind The Game Podcast, discussing the last week in gaming.

Today we have the PSN outtages, death of Miitomo, Paragon and Twitch’s push to surpass YouTube, as well as GDC Surveys, Switch Sales, and more!

 

If you like what you see, give this a share on social media, feel free to suggest topics for next week, and we will see you then on Behind The Game! Happy Gaming!

Xbox Game Pass Has Been Upgraded…Substantially.

Xbox Game Pass, the $10 per month downloading of games service, in a Netflix style, just got an upgrade.

 

Update (25/01/18) – Turns out retailers aren’t happy.

As noted by WCCFTech, an Austrian retailer has delisted all Xbox One inventory, stating that if Microsoft wants to profit purely from software, they can do it alone.

So it seems a number of things are happening now.
Microsoft as we know traditionally launches and for a while sells consoles at a loss, making the difference in licensing and software. Lord knows Xbox One X breaks even at most. Naturally because of this, the margins for retailers selling consoles, especially new ones, cant be that high, and we already hear from most places that selling new sealed games isn’t very profitable, if at all, for retailers.
So with the Game Pass announcement that games from Microsoft will be there day and date for that same $10 fee, it seems like MS is moving to a model that allows them to keep making their limited library, and getting a constant stream of revenue from more users, rather than making a handful of games yearly and selling them to a smaller base for $60 a pop. Of course, that latter option will still exist.
Plus MS can easily eat up any potentially lost revenue from other areas of the business. Remember they have done that before.
But what’s apparently more shocking is that according to those who have worked in the retail scene, MS games are historically 30% better with margins than first party stuff from Nintendo and Sony. MS games, for retailers, are the best ones to sell new. They are now losing a potential source of revenue that will shift to MS directly and make MS more money than the $60 per sale.


Basically, $10 per month from 10 million people is better for investors than $60 per game every few months from 2 million people. But one retailer isn’t happy about this it seems. They’ve caught on that this does nothing for them and are dropping Xbox inventory.

 

Original Story

All future first party releases will not only be available via Xbox Live, and in stores, but Game Pass…on launch day.

So now not only do you get Xbox 360 and Xbox One games for $10, you now get included in that price, full price retail games on the day they launch.

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This is an incredible move from Microsoft that has some people scratching their heads. Why would Microsoft release their own games for $60, and give you what is undeniably a better deal for $10 monthly, alongside a host of other games ready to go when you want?

Simple. Retailers, manufacturing, all of that stuff is factored into a $60 price tag. Plus, say a game got 2 million sales for $60. Lot of money, probably recoup development costs at that point. Now imagine 10 million people paying $10 a month.

For a company that hasn’t got the largest portfolio of first party software, this is a great move. They will be making in-house software fairly infrequently, as we have seen in the past few years, so why not sweeten the deal for a constant flow of $10 subscriptions each month?

The pros outweigh the cons it seems for Microsoft. Further, the Xbox brand historically has been covered by huge profits from other hardware and even Windows alone. Microsoft is fine with Xbox being a loss leader and with a subscription service…the bills effectively pay themselves.

I do believe this a way to get more money while not having to buy into more studios and make more games in a shorter time.

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Of course there are cons to this however. If you stop paying your $10 a month, you can’t access the games, as is the case with PS Plus. You will be able to bulk buy 6 months at a time soon, so there is that for those who need it.

Secondly, the games are in rotation. They are only available for as long as they are up, just like shows on Netflix or BBC iPlayer. If it remains on the server, you can play it. For the new titles this is unlikely to be an issue, but older 360 titles may fall to this.

Finally, and this is the eventuality, what happens when the service ends? Would Microsoft let you play the games offline? Would you just get to keep them as you do with your physical Xbox 360 games?

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These are the important questions and sadly they can’t be answered because this day has yet to come. We don’t know and I’m not sure Microsoft does either.

When considering Game Pass at face value, it is an excellent deal, but if you don’t play games much, you’re likely better off paying the $60 for a game outright.

Yes the eventuality of that is even physical copies of games now are subject to patches and updates, so when the servers one day go own, some games will be “unfinished” as it were, or at least unrefined.  But at least you won’t lose access to the games entirely.

 

 

So this is the situation. Microsoft has made an aggressive move into a Netflix like format, and the payoffs are obvious: It’s more money, monthly, rather than per game.

But for us consumers, maybe it’s not so great in the very long-term, or even medium term depending on how the service is received or games are rotated.

 

Maybe we need to wait and see, but I didn’t think this day would come so soon.

 

 

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy this article, and I will be updating everyone on developments as they happen via social media. Until next time, Happy Gaming!

Impressions: PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds!

An exercise in frustration, or an amazing game with a great concept?

 

So PUBG is something I have been aware of for a few months but never got into for monetary and other reasons. I simply had too much to do. But yesterday, live on stream, I played my first few matches.

 

I had only seen sparse footage of the game, or real discussion about it beyond its influence on Twitch and gaming as a whole. I know the story behind its creation, but not much of the actual gameplay beyond what is, on paper at least, an amazing concept.

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Airdrop up to 100 players into a huge map. Have them scavenge for armour, weaponry, tools and upgrades to their equipment…and kill each other. As they do this, the play area shrinks. Fall outside of this, your health is drained. So you have 100 people being funnelled down into a smaller and smaller area, and the last man standing wins.

This is truly an excellent concept…on paper.

Personally the idea of only two maps is a bit disheartening, until you realise these maps are huge, and the high variance of the games means every play will be different. You’ll never have the same round twice. Almost.

 

The execution of this concept is what drives me to a mixed reaction to it.

There are primarily three scenarios for your time in PUBG:

You are not likely to have two matches play out the same, unless you are unfortunate enough to be airdropped in next to someone, or a few people, who quickly find weapons, and bang, you are out of there within two minutes.

That isn’t the most fun aspect of the game. If you get lucky and don’t die immediately (Great! You got lucky!) you now need to find weapons. You can spend a good while running through open spaces (And thus be an obvious target) between buildings that may or may not end up with you defending yourself. Or dying if someone is hiding in one. That can happen too.

Long and short, you can spend a long time not being able to actually partake in the core of the gameplay.

Finally, you can end up in the third scenario which plays one of two ways. You’ll either get extremely fortunate and end up in semi-frequent bouts of combat and win, or die, or end up not finding anyone until the map shrinks and there are about 20 players left, and then come out on top…or die.

As shown above I made it to 7th place in a match…where I got two kills and spent a good 20 minutes sat in a house waiting for stuff to happen as the play area shrank and shrank, until I got blasted from the side.

This is easily the most fun part of the game. It’s high adrenaline, and goodness knows a grenade or gunshot with headphones on makes you leap out of your skin in what is a quiet world otherwise. Plus the knowledge that combat is inevitable and closing in on you is an amazing feeling.

This is where PUBG works best. Occasional combat instances, good luck finding weapons, and being able to play smart, assuming people don’t snipe you. Of course, you’ve got a 1 in 3 chance of your game even getting that far. More often than not, it feels like it won’t.

 

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Of course that’s just the game design. Visually the game can range from alright to almost N64 style in visual quality, even at full resolution, as sometimes models and textures are incredibly poor. Other times not, which is a weird inconsistency. Maybe this a downside of playing on “Medium” settings, while streaming.

It should be noted I had very few network related issues, even when streaming the game and hosting a Skype call at the same time. That much is very functional at least, which is mandatory for a multiplayer game.

In terms of controls, I used both a Dualshock 4, and Keyboard/Mouse.

Keyboard worked fine for what it is, everything is mercifully within reach, just as I have explained before however, it’s not the most comfortable solution for me as a player. The downside of using a controller means some features like underhanded throws and quick switching through weapons, aren’t available without sacrificing other things. It’s a prioritize what you need kind of situation.

Finally, aiming seems a little…weird. Guns have the appropriate kind of blowback, which means you won’t just fire in a straight line. But reviewing some “Death Cam” footage (It happened a lot), I can see players do have a hard time lining up shots or even getting them to connect. I don’t know if that’s a network thing of if the aiming is just slightly off, but it’s a strange oddity.

 

Overall I can say PUBG on PC is something to at least try out. On Xbox One, I don’t know as I can’t test that version, but from what I have seen it’s not as smooth an experience at the moment, compared to the now out of “Early Access” PC version.

But therein lies the problem: The idea of the game is amazing. It’s just luck as to whether it plays out in a way that you enjoy, or if it effectively ends with you in a boring scenario where nothing happens for a good while, or die immediately upon starting.

 

Thanks for reading this Impressions piece on PUBG! It was an interesting experience and you can bet I will be doing more like this in future! If you enjoyed this article or have your own thoughts on PUBG, let me know on social media or in the comments, and I will see you next time: Happy Gaming!

Behind The Game Update: 17-1-2018

So today happened.

 

YouTube has been a bit problematic lately and with the unfortunate e-mail today that I will indeed be losing access to a lot of features, and my network, as of February 20th 2018, I had to quickly and very certainly move ahead with some plans I had been considering, but have now been pushed to acting upon.

 

So what is happening? Well YouTube basically stripped us, and hundreds of thousands of other small channels, of most of our features, and monetisation, to fix some problem (The email is kinda bad).

Now this isn’t a money issue. This is a “I’ve been at this for 9 years and the goalposts just moved”. Imagine getting an eviction notice and at that same moment being told your eviction is because your rent is increasing. Bit like that.

After this point YouTube has presented a brick wall that has to be climbed, and while many will stick with it, as they aren’t far from the requirements, others don’t get such a luxury.

But instead of give up, I have pushed myself to this point to consolidate all of my media avenues into one thing. So let us begin:

 

 

Behind The Game!

 

Behind The Game will see the least changes.

As always we will post written reviews, articles, discussion pieces, impressions on upcoming games, all the usual content. This will not change.

What will be added however, is podcasts, discussing certain topics in gaming, the previous week in gaming and more.

These podcasts will be held on Twitch, viewable live and linked to both here, and posted here for posterity, as well as available after the fact as on-demand videos on YouTube.

There will also be video impressions on indie games, DLC, other gaming things and more as stand-alone videos available on YouTube, that will be linked here.

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YouTube!

 

This is where the most will change.

Currently we upload episodic Let’s Plays of video games. Now however, that content will not be recorded in advance (Usually, this is situation permitting).

From now on, all the “Let’s Play Content” will be streamed live on Twitch, then uploaded as VoDs onto YouTube, same as the podcasts for Behind The Game.

YouTube will also get the Impressions videos and any other things specifically for Behind The Game that cannot be livestreamed.

This is going to be the most drastic change, but allows us to record footage in better time, and upload it as long form episodes of an hour or two per week.

 

 

Twitch!

 

Finally we come to Twitch.

On Twitch we will host several shows that will replace our LP content on YouTube, such as a retro gaming session, indie session, so on so forth. More so this is where we will host our Podcasts for Behind The Game.

All things streamed on Twitch, whether it be the new “LP” content that will populate YouTube,  or Behind The Game podcasts, will be made available on YouTube after the fact.

 

So In Summary…

 

Behind The Game – Business as usual, except expect added podcasts and discussions (Hosted on Twitch, then uploaded to YouTube), and Impressions videos (Uploaded to YouTube)

YouTube – Our Let’s Play content will be replaced by live streamed content, made available after streaming on Twitch, and we will add the Impression videos.

Twitch – Twitch will be where we host our livestreamed content, both for gaming and Behind The Game.

 

 

So with that said, I hope you enjoy the changes, look forward to some streaming schedules, and go follow both of the channels at the links below. Oh, and stay tuned on Twitter @BritishPlaying for on the fly updates and news on all things BLP and BTG!

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Happy Gaming!

BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle Has A DLC Issue…

DLC isn’t a bad thing. Announcing how much DLC is in your game six months before launch…is.

 

So work this out. DLC can extend the life of a game and in the Fighting game sphere, it’s usually welcome.

So here comes BlazBlue, a series doing a cross over game with Persona and RWBY (For some reason I can’t understand) and it releases in six months, with a roster of 20 fighters.

Now if this was a newer fighting game without the huge stable of known fighting game characters under the wing of the developer, Arc System Works, that would be fine, but 20 feels a little light considering the pedigree of the studio.

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Now with the release date revealed to be June, Arc System Works has made an error in revealing the DLC plans at this stage, 6 months prior to launch.

Now in the industry that isn’t a good sign. I’ve talked about this before, but the idea of announcing DLC so far in advance indicates that it was planned to nickel and dime the player early in development, and given the heavy re-use of assets, it does feel like a cash grab.

By all accounts it seems the game was designed around the DLC. What is perhaps even more egregious is that it has been revealed that 20 characters will be in the DLC.

Half of the roster for the game is DLC people. We find this out months in advance, and it was clearly planned from the start.

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This is perhaps one of the most irritating examples of aggressive monetisation in a game. Half of the final roster is planned DLC far in advance and made known to the player.

The asset re-use is one thing. The limited roster for such a wide-reaching crossover is another. I have to wonder what appeal this game truly has outside of appealing to these fans.

Then again, it’s not micro transactions, it’s not lootboxes, but it feels somehow worse. DLC abuse is seriously an issue, and the only thing that would put this issue down in history is some Marvel Vs Capcom 3 levels of scum, with the fighters being on the disc/cartridge/download, and you pay to unlock them.

Sometimes I wonder if the industry will do DLC right. It can truly extend the life of a game, and done right can provide great value and expansions to a game. This is just cutting part out and selling it back to the player.

 

Imagine if Super Smash Bros launched with half of it’s 58 character roster behind DLC. You’d be fuming.

 

 

Thanks for reading this admittedly short article. There isnt much you can add to this kind of thing I’m afraid. It’s indefensible. As always give a share and like on social media, and I will see you next time! Happy Gaming!

Matchmaking Is Coming Under Fire in Gaming…

This was something I have mentioned in passing but recent papers from EA (Surprise…) have revealed that money is likely to determine our online gaming…

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A few months ago Activision revealed a patent to influence matchmaking based on win/loss ratios and gear that would interest you from lootboxes.

Basically all this patent does is match you with people with gear you would desire, someone usually more capable with better gear than you, so that you lose. Then you would be presented the gear in lootboxes via micro transactions.

Loot based matchmaking, patented by Activision, but not wanting to be outdone in that insidious manner, EA steps up.

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So first we should discuss dynamic difficulty. This is common in older games and the immediate thoughts for me are Spyro 3, and the Crash Bandicoot games.

Dynamic difficulty is an excellent idea in single player. The idea is that if you fail repeatedly in a spot, you get an extra hit point, checkpoints, or in the case of Spyro 3, requirements for challenges and even AI gets toned down to accommodate people having trouble. This is done in real-time, as you play the game.

Personally? I love dynamic difficulty. It prevents player frustration and being stuck in what would feel like an endless loop. But applied to multiplayer…let’s think about that.

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So EA wrote two papers, neither are terribly exciting or enjoyable to consider.

One advises that the concept of “fair matchmaking” doesn’t hold up, i.e. paired with players of similar rank, based on the assumption it’s fair. They argue this isn’t optimal for engagement…and in some loose respects I could maybe see it?

But the point is you don’t want to pair a pro player with a new guy with lesser gear. That’s simply unfair. They argue though…that they “prove” as they say:

We prove that equal-skill based matchmaking is a special case of EOMM (Engagement Optimised Matchmaking) on a highly simplified assumption that rarely holds in reality”

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So the key word is the engagement. Engagement equals constant play, and as sneakily referenced in papers by EA available at the source: Spending.

Yep. Money plays a part again. So what is their logic here?

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Simple. Good feeling chemicals in your brain. Get matched for a few bad rounds with players you can’t possibly beat? The game then pairs you with players you will trounce. You will feel good about the comeback and eventual streak, before being knocked back down again. When the matchmaking lets you win, you are acting as the “Bowling Ball” to the “Pins” of less skilled players. Then those “Pins” get restacked as the “Bowling Ball” and the cycle continues.

A continuous cycle of loss a few, then be allowed a win-streak. Manipulating the outcome of your games by weighting heavily in or against your favour, with the hope the chemicals in your brain form an almost gambling like addiction to the bursts of success. Just like losing at a slot machine and suddenly winning. A burst of that good feeling, and it will maintain a player base.

The logic there is somewhat solid. But of course the word spending comes up. So where does that fit in? Give you a little nudge towards lootboxes of course.

Picture the scenario: You lose a few matches, get some lootboxes for free, start winning, and your brain would associate the two. Just a little nudge.

This adds to dynamic difficulty in that yes, if you lose a lot, you’ll get a leg up. Win a lot, the game just got harder. Not good in multiplayer when the matchmaking decides what role you get.

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There isn’t much you can really add to this. As opposed to Activision proposing a system based on your gear and using the “Pin and Ball” effect as I am now calling it, to basically get you enticed into certain lootboxes and chances of getting equal gear, EA is opting to psychologically make you feel good and bad routinely in a form of dynamic difficulty, by matching you with players you will beat with ease, or be beaten by with ease, to keep you playing and spending more.

That’s horrible to think about.

Worse still, we wouldn’t even know it’s happening. We can’t see the backend determining who we are matched with. We would just assume we won some and lost some.

If 2017 was the year of the lootbox, 2018 will be the year of the messed-up matchmaking. Apparently the past 15 years of online play wasn’t good enough to EA.

 

If you enjoyed this article, please leave a like, comment and do all the usual on social media, and until next time: Happy Gaming!

Behind The Game Update: 8/1/2018

It’s time for our monthly update, a little later than usual, as some things have only just come to light.

 

So first off, yes, Metroid Prime (Both review and BTG article) have yet to surface. Long story short I have hardly had the time with some other commitments going on, and more on that later.

Those will happen sometime in the next few weeks. I do have a few smaller games up on my desk to review of course in the meantime, such as Sonic Advance, FAST RMX and Crash Bandicoot. Look forward to those!

Further, we are toying with the idea of videos to go alongside the articles. As someone who already makes videos for YouTube, this wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility, though it is dependant on time.

 

Okay so on that note, time. Over the holiday period I haven’t really given myself time off, from any one of my ventures, be it YouTube, this site, or game development. That’s not going to change except for the next few days immediately from the posting of this article.

As of Monday 8th January, I will be undergoing surgery, nothing major thankfully, on my foot. This is going to temporarily wipe my mobility and prevent me from getting around the house, let alone out to do things. So articles may slow this week. I will be having a potential second round of surgery in the year as well, so the same will apply then.

Of course there is the 4-10 week recovery time which will be hit and miss at the start. It’s a very “as it happens” kind of thing I am afraid.

Twitter is where you want to be for any on the fly updates about the site of anything else going on: https://twitter.com/BritishPlaying

Oh, and of course I have a job interview the day after surgery. That won’t sap any time from the site should I get employment, rather supplement it with actual income for once!

 

So with all that said stay tuned to social media, and Happy Gaming! I’ll see you on the other side of the knife!

LawBreakers: You Can’t Sell a Game on a Name

LawBreakers is an interesting game. Not really from the game part though.

 

So who has heard of Cliffy B? A man whose affectionate nickname stands out because of his involvement in titles such as Gears of War, Bulletstorm and Jazz Jackrabbit…okay maybe just the first one. He also worked on a lot of the Unreal series. So yeah, guy has a resume.

His latest project was LawBreakers. A competitor, not-competitor to Overwatch. Using anti-gravity mechanics, you could move in ways that differentiated the gameplay from its other hero based shooter brethren.

Unfortunately LawBreakers has been a bit of a flop. In some respects that’s an understatement and I’m sure the game itself has a lot of heart put into it, as the development team is clearly passionate, as is the publisher, but sales wise, it didn’t do well, and it’s player base is unfathomably low.

 

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Personally the first reason I can think of this happening is obviously Overwatch. If you want to release a hero based shooter, you need to stand toe to toe with the marketing juggernaut that is Activision-Blizzard. You need to be able to outpace and match Overwatch, no matter how different your gameplay is, it’s occupying the same space and aiming for the same players.

Just like Battleborn, another game that was attempted to be sold on name alone. Sure, Gearbox software has a name to them, one of…mixed quality…but it’s still a big name. But that enough wasn’t going to stop Overwatch, which release just before it, from casting a shadow and kicking the game aside. Not even going Free To Start saved it.

LawBreakers fared even less well. It came long after Overwatch had established itself as THE Hero shooter title. Millions of players, millions in revenue, it’s a juggernaut. What hope did LawBreakers have of snatching some of that away, especially without the marketing behemoth that is Blizzard behind it?

 

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The next thing that stood out to me, or rather, didn’t, was how under the radar this game was. Before release I was aware of a beta. I was aware the game existed, but I didn’t know much about it. All I heard, and all a lot of articles really said was that it was kind of like Overwatch, and a game from Cliffy B. What the game was certainly could have been conveyed better, especially what made it different from Overwatch, and it certainly didn’t quite grab the zeitgeist like a viral hit would.

The weird thing is, who can say why this happened? I’d certainly like to believe it is because, yet again, you can’t be a comparatively smaller publisher shouting your lungs out about a game, when there is a man with a megaphone right next to you. You won’t win that battle, not without some unprecedented windfall.

It could have just as easily been a case of not presenting the rights parts of the game.

 

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The next point is what I think really damaged the ship. As I stated a lot of the buzz around the game was “It’s from Cliffy B!” and while that CAN sell a game, it more often than not doesn’t.

Example: Mighty No. 9. From Keiji Inafune. Game wasn’t that good really. Heck even long-standing industry veterans can’t sell a game on name alone. The name of the company behind it, or the franchise in question can certainly reach the masses. Granted the game still needs to be good. But the masses don’t know the individuals. Ask anyone who Shigeru Miyamoto is. They don’t care about that. They don’t know the people.

More so, you can certainly say “Oh, this is the man behind the concept”, but…what about the rest of the people actually making the game? Yes, Keiji Inafune could say Mighty No. 9 was his idea but the rest of the team was responsible for execution. A single name behind a game does not a good product make.

 

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The reason I wrote this article is that publisher Nexon had a huge $32.6 million expenses hole in its financial reports, and naturally investors want answers. Apparently that was to be filled by LawBreakers, and the response the company gave was…interesting?

“…the timing of its launch turned out to be unfortunate, specifically the blockbuster PC online game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds came out right about the same time, making the market environment very tough for first-person shooters in general and for LawBreakers”

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Now I can understand this being the case on PC. But on consoles? Well Xbox One only just got PUBG and the PS4 hasn’t yet and won’t for a while. So this argument even if true only holds partial water. But on top of that no mention was made to the in-genre competition from Overwatch and Paladins.

But as I mentioned, even prior to launch this game didn’t really spark interest or catch attention. Nexon was banking on sailing a ship into a port already full to bursting with other similar ships. PUBG was just passing by.

 

This just goes to show that your name can’t sell a game on its own, and nor is throwing yourself into a crowded space without catching the eye of consumers a good idea.

And blaming a game that was passing by? A lot of other games managed to sell well this year despite PUBG being a thing. But damage control is damage control. You can’t tell investors “Our bad” otherwise confidence plummets. When you have a huge black hole in finances the last thing you want is people jumping ship.

 

 

As always I hope you enjoyed this article and that you give it a share and comment on social media! Until next time, Happy Gaming!

New Years Resolutions for Gaming Companies!

2018 is here, and I’m tired of the problems that companies present. A lot of them can just be sorted easily, so here are some resolutions for them all.

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STEAM

I’m opening with Steam for the simple reason that as a platform it has the most work to do to change.

Firstly they need to kill off Steam Direct and start using actual staff for curation and in turn solve the highlighted problem of visibility for games, and the use of asset flips. Any platform should not be receiving 6000 games in 10 months, let alone in a few years.

Secondly, in addition to curation of games, actual customer service will be a must. They have some customer like refunds, though it has been proven that is a bit lax, and even with that they still lag behind in terms of actual customer service communication, with some queries being fast, and some taking days or weeks. This is an area any platform needs to get right and with the rise of third-party related issues, this has to be addressed.

For Steam in general, it mostly comes down to manpower and recapturing that desire to evolve the PC gaming space, however as the dominant platform in that sector, it’s unlikely at this stage unless something overtakes them.

 

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THIRD PARTIES

So this is a big one. Perhaps the most shocking thing in 2017 outside of how good the games were in general, was how far third parties fell almost simultaneously.

Micro-transactions and lootboxes do indeed have a place in the games industry, however, it most certainly is not in full priced games, and absolutely not for progression or gameplay advantages. A pay to win structure doesn’t work in full price games. If the game was free then sure, there is your monetisation, but with already heavy season passes, full price games and additional DLC, it has become a bit ludicrous.

Secondly, PR! Perhaps Bungie has been the biggest culprit of this but that’s not the exception in recent months. Destiny 2 became an apology loop with each update and fixes for basic things, or things that should have been improved from the original game, were purely reactionary to backlash. Further to that point, EA has truly put their foot in it, with the contempt aimed at gamers being duly noted.

Finally, third parties in this coming year need to stick by what they say, and stop treating gamers like fools. Bandai-Namco and their “Show your support and maybe” approach to getting people to advertise their games for the promise of a Switch port is one thing, when done numerous times, but then the obvious tomfoolery from other companies beggars belief. 2017 was very much the year when the community bit back. Let’s hope they reflect on it.

 

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PLAYSTATION

PlayStation is in a tricky spot. On one hand they have almost monopolised the industry, with sales left and right. One thing they need to do is keep the games coming and keep dropping fan favourites but also not lean on remasters too hard. Additionally, they need to avoid a repeat of 2016 and front loading all their first party titles.

Next, VR. 2 million sales is nice but the asking price combined with the price of a PS4 demands killer apps. Those killer apps need to come sooner rather than later, otherwise the market will stagnate. VR has a bright future, once revised and refined, but it needs to sell on concept first, and the concept needs big hitters. The catch is Sony isn’t known for supporting two platforms equally.

Next is doing what fans want. We want cross-platform play. Every other system has it. We want backwards compatibility of higher quality and frequency than we have had for the past few years. These are areas that Sony is being left behind in, and as much as they want it to be all service based in future, I don’t think other industries and infrastructures are ready yet.

Finally, don’t announce games so early anymore. The “Holy Trinity” of E3 2015 has only had one release so far and the other two are vaporware. God of War STILL doesn’t have a release date, and Spider-Man is likely to show up for the third E3 in a row. Further to this, don’t go to so many conferences, at least not within 6 months of each other. Spread them out, otherwise we end up with PSX 2017 being a repeat of Paris Games Week which was a repeat of E3, which was a repeat of the last E3.

Oh, and put a better damn battery in that controller. It’s laughable.

 

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XBOX

This is tricky. On one hand, hardware wise, Xbox is fine for now. The One X is the enthusiast machine and the One S can live as a UHD Blu-Ray and streaming box. One thing it lacks is games.

It gets a bevy of third-party releases, but first party is terribly lacking. Most releases were pushed to 2018, but even then you can count them on one hand. I fully hope HALO 6 is a 2018 announcement at the very least. This is an area they need to heavily work on.

Second is Japanese games. Sure the brand isn’t big….at all…in Japan, but it will help reach a greater audience that the PS4 and Switch hit. As it stands Xbox is very much a Western device, and that’s its weakness.

Backwards compatibility needs to continue as is, as does pushing cross-play across platforms alongside developers and Nintendo. The PC support via Windows Store is nice and it is clear the future of Xbox is a service over a dedicated box on its own, but the focus cannot shift too far from selling consoles.

Stop shutting studios and show off that fabled (HA) AR/VR gadget you’ve got going on.

 

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NINTENDO

So what can Nintendo do after an incredible 2017? A few things.

Firstly, mobile. Keep going as is, with not at all invasive monetisation (Seriously, Fire Emblem Heroes is VERY generous!) and two or three games a year. The view that the revenue is funnelled into game development and the games exist as an entry point to the main games is genius and seems to be working well.

Secondly, Directs. Keep the current format for Nintendo Directs and their frequency. These are amazing ways to communicate with consumers and get news out fast and in great volume. Sprinkle some Nindie Showcases and game specific presentations in the year, and the communication front is set.

On to Nindies: Don’t stop. Maybe rework the eShop for visibility purposes but keep those indies coming. The sales don’t lie and nor does the consumer response: Switch is an indie dream machine and in the wake of PlayStation apathy and Steam being a mess, this can be readily positioned as the new home for indie developers.

Regarding services, outline the Online Service at some point during the year, it’s feature set, and other aspects like the free games and discounts and such. I won’t expect Xbox Live levels of incredible, but enough to justify £20 a year. If you are feeling generous, maybe a Virtual Console service? Though that has in past damaged eShop sales for indies, so maybe stick with the Classic Mini systems instead, with an N64 one this year?

Get more third parties on board and if need to, keep paying them for games. The shining hopes are there with DOOM, Skyrim and soon Wolfenstein, as well as L.A Noire proving a hit. Now is the time to pick up steam. Ports of older games get a new lease of life and modern games can run with some effort. So bolster that library.

First party releases need to maintain speed, and the big game a month approach also should maintain. One or two months without works fine, those typically end up being third-party dominated months like November, so work around that.

Finally, slowly phase out 3DS. As I have mentioned before it is a budget option now, and with smaller titles, localizations and third-party efforts coming in 2018, it’s time to let it simmer and slowly phase out.

Maybe a Switch price cut too, towards the end of the year? That’d be cool!

 

 

And those are some gaming resolutions and a to-do list for companies this year. May we hope they all come true. Some will, as some are safe bets, others are merely hopes and wishes. If you liked this article, give it a share on the social medias, and I will see you next time! Happy Gaming!

 

64GB Switch Carts Are Delayed? Alright Then

Allegedly, according to unnamed sources, the 64GB physical game storage cards for Nintendo Switch are delayed from mid 2018, to 2019. Let’s break down why this isn’t a big deal.

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So first off, you need to understand that 64GB cards would be a significant deal, if only because, as I have noted before, this would surpass the limit for physical media on PS4 and Xbox, as Blu-Rays only go to 50GB. At least we would hear the last of “The cards aren’t big enough”, right?!

So the sources state that some western publishers especially are displeased with this. I have to ask, just who that would be? It’s not EA, or Activision, that’s for sure, because to our knowledge they just gave up. It’s not likely to be Ubisoft, as their games come in usually well sized. So that leaves Bethesda, who has done a good job with deciding what to put on a cart, and 2K. I bet it’s 2K.

So L.A. Noire on Nintendo Switch is a big game. 27.4GB in fact. That *would* fit on a 32GB card, but as noted during the entirety of the Switch Tax debacle and as noted by developers, that’s too expensive to produce, so they opt for 16GB cards normally, like Skyrim and DOOM did. L.A Noire comes on an 8GB card. Yes, even cheaper than 16GB, and the rest of the game is a download. I would like to take this opportunity to point out yet again, this is the same situation on PS4 and Xbox One as well. 2K took the cheap route.

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Now one thing I want to know is just what Switch games will be upwards to 64GB? Certainly some will come in above 32GB yes, but most certainly not near 50GB or higher. That’s absurd even on PS4 and Xbox One, and when it does happen it’s because of 4K assets (Where files hit 100GBs!) or the game being 10-20GB over.

But any game from those systems being ported to Switch would have to be downgraded. If they aren’t the games wont run with the higher quality assets, the system can’t handle it. So lower quality, and most importantly smaller in size, assets will be used. This should, all things hopeful anyway, reduce the file size from the 50GBs. So this raises the question, what games would be above 50GBs on the system? Maybe two or three games as a bundle on one card, but not a single title, surely?

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But this leads to another point. Most publishers right now, as shown with 2K, Bethesda, and more, find 32GBs too expensive t use, settling for 16GB, or foolishly 8GB. Now in the case of 16GB often they don’t actually need to go higher, such as with Skyrim, but sometimes stretching for 32GB would be fine.

But the publishers are so allergic to the notion of 32GB cards at their current price, that it makes the mind go wild over just why they would be upset over the notion of a bigger, much more expensive card not being ready yet, when they won’t shell out for what IS a cheaper card comparatively, even at the current price! Why are they upset if they won’t use 32GB with places stating “cost” is the reason. This just doesn’t add up.

 

Of course there is the belief that the introduction of a 64GB card will drive down prices of the others, and this isn’t strictly true. What will drive down the price is the manufacturing process getting cheaper and the Flash NAND chip shortage as noted by Toshiba being in part due to smart phones, ending. If the cost to make them falls, the cost to buy them will too. If you start making a newer, bigger, more expensive card, it doesn’t suddenly make the smaller ones cheaper.

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But this all ties in to my last article on the matter of physical media not evolving. Sony and Microsoft are stuck with 50GB Blu-Rays and those can’t hold the games at 4k resolutions they are so desperately chasing. It’s been 11 years since Blu-Ray was used for games, surely by now they should be on to UHD Blu-Ray? Problem is cost. That’s expensive, so they won’t. But it’s funny that in a year or two, the Nintendo Switch will be outpacing what they can store in a disc, in a tiny little cartridge.

As I said before, physical media needs to catch up, and it looks like it has if these 64GB cards are anything to go by. All we need is the shortage to end, and the prices to fall, and Blu-Ray will be outdated for everything except 4K assets. Even then, who knows right?

 

Thanks for reading, and if you liked this article give it a share on social media, and I will see you next time. Until then, Happy Gaming!

2017 In Gaming: A Look Back Over 12 Months

2017 has been a bit of wild ride, from new systems, new franchises, a lot of old franchises, incredible highs and some very deep lows.

 

If you were to really take away one from this year in gaming, it’s that new hardware came and really impressed the world.

Where the PS4 Pro was a relatively safe (And some would argue lacklustre) refresh of the PS4, the Xbox One X stormed ahead and probably could just be considered a new generation of hardware of its own. This machine has proven itself to be a real powerhouse, and a lot of people were doubting it, both in part to the Xbox One having lower sales than the PS4, but by no means bad, we should stress, and its high price leading to a question: Who is it for? For the enthusiast it has taken the crowd by surprise.

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Also of note is the Nintendo Switch, a machine so many were down prior to launch, and coming off the back of the Wii U and 2016 had many wondering if Nintendo had a place in the market anymore, including its own software partners. While it had a quieter start, demand was high from the off, and only grew. The real story is how over 10 months the perspective changed from doom and gloom, to “Oh it’s only early success, itll fall off”, to “Itll be dead by Xmas”, to a quieter rumbling of things still left to improve. If that isn’t a turn around, who knows what is.

The 3DS also had a hot year with many in-demand games and its end of life revision in the New 2DS XL being released. The little handheld has some time left in the sun, but no more than a year or two.

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The PS4 had a quieter year, if only because business as usual isn’t noteworthy. 70 million units out in the world now, 4 years in, that’s pretty good. PSVR also hit 2 million despite a lack of compelling software because…price cuts I suppose, but the VR competition is lagging behind, and the market shows a chance of stalling without further innovation and software.

Overall then, hardware wise, it has been a fantastic year with every company really on top of their hardware game.

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On to software then, the success stories really come from Sony and Nintendo, with Sony opting to front load its year with first party releases and major third-party titles before dropping off and letting the maligned GT Sport and third party deals flood the latter half of the year. Additionally, press events like Paris Games Week and E3 left a lot to be desired. People can only see the same game so many times without a release date.

Nintendo maintained a steady stream of games for both systems throughout the year. Critical and commercial darlings flooded their hardware and third parties developer some strong showings for once, despite a lack of desire to do so early on. Furthermore, gamers proved receptive to the software, with titles like Splatoon 2, Breath of the Wild, and Super Mario Odyssey setting records for their respective franchises.

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Microsoft once again limped along on third-party offerings, but majority of sales were on PS4. Furthermore the cancellation of exclusives like Scalebound and closure of notable studios left the future in question, as well as delaying what few exclusives were planned to next year. Maybe it will pick up then.

The indie scene proved to be on fire with once again the Nintendo Switch dominating the stories there with very high indie sales. Steam fell behind in this regard and Sony seemingly lost interest, but the quality on display this year has been unmistakable.

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Third parties as well proved a force to be reckoned with. If we ignore EA, as Mass Effect was a mess and their later games proved less than welcome with bad business decisions. Games like Nier, Nioh, Sonic Mania, Wolfenstein 2, Assassins Creed Origins, Mario + Rabbids, all proved surprise hits. Sure there were duds like Sonic Forces, but third parties not only showed renewed passion in their work, but renewed creativity.

Interestingly 2017 saw huge backlash against micro-transactions and lootboxes in gaming, as companies attempt to push them harder and harder into the core structure of games. This perhaps will be evidenced next year if more games opt to do this, and maybe this indicates a boom in the indie scene. Certainly “AA” games like Hellblade have shown they have a place, and companies like Square Enix have renewed interest in mid-range titles.

 

2017 will likely go down as a highlight year for the renewal of an industry that seemed to be struggling with staying fresh. Many companies came back from the brink and brought their A Game, and while there were some very loud duds from some, and some fresh controversy, it doesn’t drown out that regardless of what platform you choose, you had a fine year.

Except maybe Steam. I can’t see wading through that as fine. Seriously, sort that out Valve.

 

You’ll need to forgive me about this being a shorter piece. There isn’t much to say for this year beyond “It was really good”. Barring the issues around lootboxes later in the year and EA being EA…it’s been a fine year all around! So until next time, Happy Gaming!

“For The Players”: It’s Almost True…

At the end of every PS4 ad, I see that slogan. It’s the only slogan from a console maker I call bull at as well.

 

The PS4 got its early success from appearing “Friendly” compared to the upfront jackassery of the Xbox One reveal. Those anti-consumer practices of the launch were turned around and only really forgotten recently, under waves of good moves that are for the players of games.

Sony used this slogan early on, to show how they weren’t (But also kind of *were*) doing the things Microsoft were doing and talking about openly. At this time, the slogan made perfect sense. Position yourself as pro-consumer, all is good, and it worked. At the time, “For The Players” was very much the case.

 

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Now readers may jump to the defence of the PS4 with “It’s just marketing” but also remember that marketing places an expectation. This is how you sell your product, this is what the buyer expects. The buyer will expect a pro-consumer experience except…nowadays, and always in reality (Though it wasn’t as prevalent back in 2014), this isn’t the case.

Before someone says “Well what about the other slogans for other systems?”, let’s look shall we?

Xbox One X: “The World’s Most Powerful Console”. This is objectively, for right now, true.

Nintendo 3DS: “There’s No Play Like It”. This is also objectively true, as right now there is no other dual screen stereoscopic 3D system.

Nintendo Switch: “Anytime, Anywhere, with Anyone”. Objectively true. You can play the console anytime, anywhere you want, with anyone you want.
Yet every time I see “For The Players”, man, it’s easy to fault it. It’s so simple to just look at what PlayStation is doing and seeing without even having to look twice, how they are right now the most anti-consumer of the three console makers.

So let’s start with backwards compatibility shall we?

 

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So Sony with the PS2, allowed you to play every single PS1 game you owned. Straight away, no strings attached. With the PS3 they had to drop PS2 support entirely not long after launch for cost reasons which I admit is fair play. With PS4, good luck emulating the PS3.

Jump ahead to today, and we have the minimal trickle of PS2 Classics on the PS4. The rate at which these come out is frankly absurd with months between releases. Imagine the Wii U first party release schedule, but for older games. Yeah, it’s bad.

But it doesn’t stop with how fast they come. Even on PS3 some PS2 and PS1 Classics had emulation issues, or vanished from the digital store with no notice and re-appeared two years later (Crash 2 did this in the EU for no reason). The reason they once gave on the official PlayStation Blog was:

The journey from PSone disc to PSone emulation can be a long one – here’s the short version.

We make sure we’ve got a good copy of the original disk (or discs if there are localised versions), then the game is cleared for publish by our legal department.

Why are some games available on the US Store but not available on the EU Stores?

The million dollar question…

This usually comes down to either publishing rights or bugs that occur within the emulated PAL version that did not occur within the NTSC emulated version. There are several PAL titles that don’t play well with the emulator because of a PAL-only copy protection system that was used in several key releases, and sometimes other bugs occur at random.

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Which is bulls***. Explain to me good sirs at Sony, why we here in the UK got the US versions of the Spyro Trilogy, two years after other regions mind you, with permanent slowdown, music playback errors, and frame rate issues? If you get the EU version of the game, why isn’t that the one we got and why is the emulation sub-par for those games?

 

In addition though, on PS4 in addition to the molasses pace at which old games show up, emulations issues are abound. I spent the past night with the PS4 edition of Jak X, emulated in 1080p on the PS4 with Trophy support (Hooray…) and it had frame pacing issues, frame rate issues, and combined with the games already rather loose control….this was a problem. Not unplayable, but certainly below what we expect.

But it doesn’t stop there, oh no. Remember on Wii U you could transfer your Wii stuff to the new console, and any Virtual Console games you brought were given a hefty discount on the Wii U Virtual Console if available? Sure this was clunky, but the system did have a way of making that purchase easier on you (Shame it isn’t also on 3DS mind…). Then we have Xbox One. Pop your disc in, and hey, a BC game is now there downloaded and ready to go free of charge. Or they see you have a 360 game downloaded to your account, and add it to your Xbox One queue immediately, as a free game, because you already owned the original release on your account, or in disk form.

 

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PS4 doesn’t have this. Sure, it makes sense not to, BUT IT COULD HAVE THIS! So hear me out on this one.

When I downloaded the 4 Jak and Daxter games to my PS4, I realised, wait, I already downloaded the remasters on PS3. This is the same account. Am I not getting a discount here? Nope. To further compound things I check my trophy list, I have two separate lists now, one for the PS3 releases, one for the PS4 backwards compatibility releases! I can see this on my PS4! There is no reason this couldn’t be discounted by checking my account, or popping the disc in, as yes the PS4 can read DVDs.

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But to compound this issue even further, because it goes even deeper than that, let’s hold up the PS Vita for a moment. Who remembers cross-buy? Anyone? The notion that you get a PS3/PS4 and Vita copy of a game in a single digital purchase? This is something they have already done, between systems, why hasn’t it been done here?

Again, “For The Players”. Where we see they could do it, and have done it in the past, and clearly have the capability to do it, they won’t. Still your friend yet?

 

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Moving on let’s talk about cross-platform play. Oh boy. So the official stance from developers is that yes, they want cross platform play. Microsoft and Nintendo, will let developers do cross platform play, with no hesitation. Middleware developers like Epic Games have shown that they too want it. Sony doesn’t.

The reason why is simple. If your friend has a PS4 and you want to play a game with him so buy a PS4. It keeps them in the PS4 ecosystem, holding it to ransom basically. From a business standpoint that is sound logic especially as the dominant console. Until you meet someone like me. All of my friends are on Xbox and PC. Am I going to have them go buy a PS4 to play with me, one each, or am I going to get the game and take my multiplayer gaming elsewhere?

The answer is the latter, obviously. It’s an effective strategy until they consider people who want to play with their friends who already have another system. It won’t be logical to both go and buy a PS4, when only one of them needs to go buy an Xbox or Switch or PC. You can argue this won’t be the case for many people, but it also won’t be an insignificant number of people where this is in fact the case.

Again, this is a stupid anti-consumer move. Why would you limit this to force people into (Or away from as the case seems to be) a PS4 purchase when by all accounts the PS4 has enough merit to be a purchase of its own accord just by glancing over at its library? Funnily enough all these cross-play enabled platforms are doing just fine without gating away your friends, because their libraries are compelling. The PS4 most definitely has enough power behind it to not require this dumb move, anyone will tell you that, and given the freedom of choice, many people would pick PS4 anyway, if it interested them. Now they will be turned away, especially if their friends are on other systems.

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But what really gets me is how Sony “Responded” to this at E3 2017. I say “Responded” because well…they gave several answers and didn’t stick with any of them…

Unfortunately it’s a commercial discussion between ourselves and other stakeholders, and I’m not going to get into the detail of that on this particular instance. And I can see your eyes rolling.

We’ve got to be mindful of our responsibility to our install base

Everybody has to take their own decisions. We’ll do that. Like I say, we have no philosophical stance against cross-play at all.

That said, to my knowledge, there is no live conversation ongoing at the moment.

Source (Seriously read it all, it is pure gold!)

Props to Eurogamer for this grilling, as it shows their reasoning is…well flimsy, is probably the right word. That’s all I will say on that matter, because again, they are still “For the Players”, right? Right?

 

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Now let’s talk about indies. Hey Jim Ryan, come put your foot in it again. You were all about indie games early on, what happened?

It was just good to talk about in 2013/2014. It is less relevant now.

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Well…that’s nice. I’m actually going to quote Jim Sterling here as well, who asked some indie developers regarding Steam and the other platforms, and what they noted was “Sony isn’t interested“, and this has shown. The indie games are drying up on PS4.

But that’s what is odd. Other indie developers have noted in interviews that the people leading Sony’s indie charge a few years ago have since left.

“Our contacts at Sony are not as reliable as those at Microsoft, to be honest,”…

“I don’t know them as well, they’re less engaged with what’s going on here at IndieCade — I’ve seen the Xbox people all over here all the time. I see, definitely, a difference.”

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The general mood appears to be one of Sony almost withdrawing from indies as a pillar of their business and frankly doing so I think is damaging. These are the niche releases, the quirky creative games and no all of them can’t be good, but many are and they fill a much-needed gap in releases.

This rich, full and varied line up and promoting other developers (Like they promote their wonderful third-party partners in exchange for hot cash) will do nothing but promote game sales on your platform, which you get a cut from. Just look at sales of indie games when promoted by Nintendo, it fills in gaps, gets the games out there, and they sell well. Same for Microsoft.

Put your hat in the ring and push some more games and promote them during the period. Players will thank you, normally with money.

 

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Now let’s look at basic features. External hard drive support? Took 3 years to arrive. Couldn’t tell you why, it just did. The basic feature that is expandable external storage was missing from PS4 for 3 years!

Oh and let’s quickly discuss PSN Names. You can’t change your PSN Username, unlike on every other system and platform imaginable, but I believe I have found the reason.

So in a database there will be a value, just a random string of digits, like a friend code on a Nintendo system. This value will never change. This is your account in the database.

Attached to this value are all the variables, things you can change, like your address, real name, card details, purchase history, settings, so on so forth. All those are changeable and tied to that unchangeable value. That is how the accounts on other systems are set up. Your username, your display name, is just another variable, as it should be.

On PSN, the thing all your variables are tied to is your account name. That username you are stuck with is the string of digits you can’t change in the database. That username is what holds all your data for your account in Sony’s servers. Brilliant foresight I have to sarcastically say, and though they claim they are working on it, we know that if this is the case the PSN will have to be completely rebuilt, as it’s still stuck in 2006.

 

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To conclude, let’s talk about John Kodera. This is the man behind the PSN, PSVue, PSNow, all the services and streaming things tied to the PlayStation brand. He is now head of the branch, rather suddenly, and likely this is to leverage a service based, subscription based future for the PS4 and successor devices.

He is also very interested in micro-transactions too. Lucky us right?

With words recently from Kazuhiko Takeda (Head of Corporate Planning) at an investors meeting, I do worry about this approach lining up a little too well with their future strategy…

Our business model involves selling both the game console and the software for it, so we’re working to get more customers paying continuously for content, for example through paid subscription services.

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As Sony has said, their future for PlayStation is constant payment from you, the consumer. Tie that idea in with Kodera and his admitted enjoyment on micro-transactions, and his big focus on subscriptions and streaming things to you, as well as PS+, and it gets a bit…of a mess.

Oh and speaking of PS+ I didn’t even mention the service outage problems or the fact that they gleefully advertise that some DLC is on PS4 30 days before any other system! “For the Players!”.

Oh, and apparently what you see below happens on PS Now as well…

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Seriously though, sarcasm aside, I think Sony has a lot of work to do. Their slogan was true early on with PS4 but now it holds no water, and as a tagline that is meant to sell you on something, and promise an experience accurate to those words, it falls flat in every way, outside of a good library of games.

But to their consumers, to us watching from the outside, it’s daunting. A lie on every box as it were. It has some merit, but dig just a little and you see a company that is very much against the players.

It has to change, otherwise they will find themselves where Microsoft was in 2013.

 

 

And that is our Christmas article for the year! A very long one I know but I had a lot to say and a lot of words to say it with. As always share this with your friends, leave comments here or on social media, tell me I’m wrong in every way and I will see you next time. Until then, Happy Gaming!

Sonic Forces Has Some Dire DLC…

I never thought I would write the following words: Super Sonic is DLC.

 

Okay, so before we go in to this, we need context on both Super Sonic, and Sanic.

Sanic is a meme. Honestly I would love to just leave it there and have it expunged from the game entirely, but the series has decided to embrace the crudely drawn MS Paint rendition of Sonic, dubbed “Sanic”, in ways that move beyond just the TV Show as a reference (Alongside the fan-fiction of all things) and a nod in LEGO Dimensions.

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Sanic is available, for free, in all copies of the game, as a t-shirt design for your custom character. Okay, at least it’s free. I mean I would honestly prefer it if the series was a little more….delicate? about being self-aware, rather than just opening the door and saying “Yes, all this mockery online is entirely just”. We all know how the mockery of a fan base can actually impact people mentally, it’s not a very smart thing to do, just let folks enjoy what they enjoy, you know?

I think there is a fine balance between being self-aware and poking fun, and straight up embracing what was a joke meant to demean the franchise and it’s titles (Because many have been lacklustre prior to 2010, and a couple since) feels like…almost giving up. Like the series has no integrity anymore. On one hand yes, nice joke, and in some loose ways it does fit the avatar creation side of things.

On the other hand, you put a reference to a meme used to demean the franchise…in Sonic Forces. 

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This is a game that is hardly “Good”, instead treading the fine line of mediocre to plain boring, it has obvious development problems, clear instances of things being scrapped and restarted, insanely short levels and not very fulfilling gameplay, and what do they do? Put some DLC in the game used to mock the franchise. Did they actually not see how amazingly self-fulfilling that is?

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But anyway, on to Super Sonic. This little feature has been a part of the games since 1992 in Sonic the Hedgehog 2, usually as a reward for certain tasks, like clearing the Special Stages, or for the unlockable final boss throughout the mid-2000s.

Super Sonic did return to fully playable status in 2010 with Sonic 4 and Sonic Colours (The first time ever in 3D), and this has remained the case for Generations, Lost World, and Mania. Super Sonic has been there as a reward for completing the game, or certain milestones.

So Sonic Forces came along and in the PC version they found inaccessible (Though later accessed and fully playable not long after the game came out) code for Super Sonic. It’s in the game, fully playable. I assumed it was just dummied out. I wish it was.

So again, for 25 years Super Sonic has been a part of the franchise as your reward. An in-game thing meant to reward you (Or beat up a final boss in some cases). In Sonic Forces however, it’s in the game, but you can’t access it. Unless you pay up for some DLC of course.

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Yes, for the first time ever, this feature of the series for over two decades, is now on-disc DLC. I am absolutely dumbfounded and also surprised. It’s free for around a month, but as of late January, cough up some dough for Super Sonic.

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This is honestly a problem that goes further than the Sanic DLC, as this is removal of a series staple and put behind on-disc paywalls. It’s very egregious, and frankly one thing it does have in common with the Sanic DLC is the feeling that it’s just rubbing salt in the wound.

We had it so good, heck Sonic Mania was months ago, and this game comes along, from the team that brought us Colours and Generations, two highly loved games, and it falls flat in so many ways. To rub it in how unfinished the game feels, we get to wear a mockery of the series made official, and pay up for things that used to be standard.

 

At the same time though, as we have talked about here before many times, this feels like it is becoming the norm. Things you used to be able to just do are now locked behind cash, and the games mock you in the same way trolls on the internet do.

I don’t know what is worse really: Seeing Super Sonic become on-disc DLC, or having to see a meme people have almost weaponised in a game so utterly mediocre it surpasses parody and enters the realm of “Oh we know”.

 

I guess we can rest easy knowing Mania 2 will be a thing?

Behind The Game: Games of the Year!

Rather than do a numbered list, we will just be posting our favourite games of this past year.

 

In reality, a lot of games I played this year were from years past, but I have picked up plenty of 2017 titles, so let’s dive right in, in no particular order of course.

There will be some close omissions, and a fair few popular games are ones I haven’t simply had the time or money to get around to playing this year, such as Persona 5, but I am most definitely aware of their impact and deserved praise.

 

Sonic Mania

Available on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch

Developer: Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games

Publisher: SEGA

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We reviewed this game and gave it glowing praise, granted it isn’t perfect, as a testament to what makes a great, fast paced, replayable 2D Adventure. Be it the stunning visuals in all their HD Pixel-y glory, or the jazzy retro soundtrack from Tee Lopes, there is something for any fan of platformers to enjoy. If you want some retro 2D goodness, this is where you go.

 

Chicken Wiggle

Available on Nintendo 3DS Systems

Developer: Atooi

Publisher: Atooi

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From the 2D wizards at Atooi under Jools Watsham we have Chicken Wiggle. This game is certainly a welcome addition to the ever-expanding 3DS family that flew under everyone’s radars amongst all the Switch hype this summer. The gameplay is charming and simple, but buried within is the incredible level creation tools used to create the game with different objectives and the ability to share your creations with other players. Give this one a go if it’s your fancy. This is the prime level creation community game for 3DS!

 

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

Available on Nintendo Switch

Developer: Ubisoft Milan/Ubisoft Paris

Publisher: Ubisoft

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Another game we have written about before, this time in the form of a Behind The Game examination, Mario + Rabbids is a game that admittedly drew me in to tactical RPGs. My wallet cries already. Where other games have lost me on overcomplicated mechanics, Kingdom Battle strives ahead with simple but in-depth mechanics, and a true to form presentation backed up by Grant “Noggy” Kirkhope (Sorry Grant, but Twitter doesn’t lie!) and his traditional jaunty tunes bringing each world to life. This is a game full of surprises and well worth picking up, even if it can beat you down without mercy!

 

Metroid: Samus Returns

Available on Nintendo 3DS Systems

Developer: MercurySteam

Publisher: Nintendo

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MercurySteam may have a history with Metroidvania titles, but nothing quite does their talents justice than Samus Returns. Sure the game can be difficult, very difficult at times, and it’s structure being based on Metroid II Return of Samus maybe doesn’t give it quite that open-ended Metroid feel we are used to, it is still a fantastic atmospheric and well-developed title, with unique twists to really make it stand out amongst its 2D Metroid brethren. Even just as an action game, you can’t go wrong here.

 

Crash Bandicoot: The N. Sane Trilogy

Available on PS4

Developer: Vicarious Visions

Publisher: Activision

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Crash is back, and it is truly fantastic. Faithful (At times to a fault) remakes of the original trilogy from the PSone days, this is a trilogy available on PS4 that any PSone, platformer or retro fans want to nab. Difficult, charming, and true to the spirit of the originals we remember, this is the return the Bandicoot deserved. They even threw in some little bonuses and attention to details that fans will appreciate.

 

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Available on Nintendo Switch and Wii U

Developer: Nintendo EPD

Publisher: Nintendo

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So full admission going in to this: I’m not a huge fan of 3D Zelda. Something about the slower starts really turns me away. Up to the release of this game the only one I beat was The Wind Waker HD. So to my surprise, the speed at which this game lets you begin, let’s you learn and progress entirely at your own pace and gives you this huge captivating world you want to explore, even if the rewards aren’t all worth it. There are annoyances, but like many games above, this simply captivated me into continuing, just to see what was over the next ridge. This is a game I can safely say will give you an experience totally unique to you.

 

Snake Pass

Available on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch

Developer: Sumo Digital

Publisher: Sumo Digital

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One thing I always adore in games is a unique idea, and this is no different. How do you do a platformer….without the power to jump? Simply put, you use a snake. Snake Pass caught my eye from day one just as something different. Another charming almost throwback to the past, with the unique challenge of learning the physics and how Noodle works to explore the levels. There are plenty of optional challenges should you desire them, especially going for 100%, but impatient sorts will find themselves in a bit of a tangle. Stick with it though, and you’ll soon see what makes this such a gem.

 

Snipperclips: Cut It Out, Together!

Available on Nintendo Switch

Developer: SFB Games

Publisher: Nintendo

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Yet another game that caught my eye due to its unique premise. You and a friend, or yourself on your own I suppose, co-operate and communicate in short puzzles that test your cunning, wit, and inevitable use of innuendo to refer to certain strategies. This is a game I am very happy to see get more content, if only for simple fun with friends. This is the top co-operative game this year for me, and nothing beats the blushing, laughter, and sound of gears turning in your mind when you sit down and play with friends for a few hours. You’ll be hard pressed to keep a straight face with this as your friend asks you to “Snip” them!

 

Super Mario Odyssey

Available on Nintendo Switch

Developer: Nintendo EPD

Publisher: Nintendo

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Another for us platformer fans. Of course a successor to Super Mario 64 would be great but I had no idea I would be sinking 40 hours of my time, over a few nights, to get 100% in this game. I was unprepared for the variety, the creativity, the sheer joy at even simple actions, in a game that both looks back, and pushes forward. What it has is unique and incredibly solid mechanics and worlds, and only rarely loses focus with the sheer volume of content. This is a game you will come back to in years to come and still find new ways to approach things.

 

Splatoon 2

Available on Nintendo Switch

Developer: Nintendo EPD

Publisher: Nintendo

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Rounding out one of my favourite years in gaming so far is Splatoon 2, a game that manages to pull me back in for an hour or two a week just to mess around with the new content. Fun, colourful, and an improvement over the original, this is my multiplayer game of the year and for good reason: It’s simply fun. Not only does it capture the perfect “One More Round” mentality, but it keeps itself fresh week after week, and the sheer abundance of modes means every time you play, you’ll catch yourself trying something new. This takes an already unique concept one step further by simply giving you more bang for your buck.

 

 

Those are just 10 of my favourite games from this year. Of course I intentionally left out re-releases like Mario Kart and Mega Man, but some genuinely amazing games were also up for consideration.

I’m very glad to have had an amazing year in gaming with both big and small companies providing the good stuff in a multitude of genres and it’s a shame I can’t play them all. I have an ever-growing wish list of 2017 games I still want to pick up and play!

Yes there are the usual suspects, but one can’t forget this year for me has been a year of unexpected gems, and indie developers absolutely bringing their A game.

As always if you enjoyed this or have any other games you personally loved this year, please let us know on social media and give this article a share, and I will see you next time. Until then, Happy Gaming!

 

 

Programmers: The Unsung Heroes

This is an aspect of the reception of games that barely gets noticed, but one that is also noticed a lot in a different light: Programming.

 

So this is a discussion close to me, as a programmer anyway, as it is something that I have not only been subject to, but others have around me as well. Not just that, but you will see it regarding reviews of games or other software, or rather, it’s what you don’t see that is interesting.

 

So as I went through university for Game Design, a choice I completely regret (I mean that Economics degree was right there…), I realised we spent very little time learning the bit that makes games…interactive. Programming was barely a footnote amongst the art and writing aspects (And how to make the most money by selling your game piecemeal). I suppose this was the downside of the course focusing strictly on the “Traditional Western AAA methods”. I’ll write another article about the entire issue of the education I had at a later date, because it makes my blood boil.

In terms of programming, outside of the classes on Websites (Which were fine) and “Mobile Apps” (Which were really mobile websites), there wasn’t a lot. In my first year, in 2014, there was a class on “Digital Media and Design”, which from those who took said class, sounded like making games and animations in Flash. Yes, in 2014, I am just as baffled as you are.

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For that first year, all I had to go on was some copy and pasted, not explained, not very well conveyed JavaScript into Unity. The few programmers there were on our own.

Second year had a class on “Games Engine Programming” which was basically C# in Unity. Now on paper this is a good idea. In practice, it was far too fast for anyone there to get anything, and overcomplicated matters without ever explaining the purpose of functions, methods or any other aspects. Just follow along, and we were expected to produce AI, procedural generation and inventory management systems. It was a mess.

Beyond that, programming was….well there is a reason they asked to see who was a programmer at the start of the course. They basically have it set up so the programmers go solo with learning, so they don’t have to, and hope the group work plays out okay.

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It’s baffling there is a course on making games that barely scratches the surface of making a game interactive, there was actually more classes on micro transactions and the types of story you can tell. Don’t even ask about optimisation, or programming in any other engines that we were required to use like CryENGINE and Unreal Engine 4. That wasn’t touched in the slightest.

But this is the facts, a generation of developers is now out in the world….with no knowledge of how to make a game interactive or be coded properly, and the problem is, this means they will be seen.

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So my other issue that I brought up mentioned reviews, and this is true. Look at any review for a game. How often does a review mention how glitch free, or well done the collisions are? What about how stable the game is on a technical level? What about AI praise, or so on so forth? Programming in games, especially good programming, goes in-noticed. It’s never going to draw attention to itself by being good. But art, music, visuals? Yeah, people will praise that, and rightly so, if the work is good, praise them. But programmers don’t get that luxury.

Now read some reviews. Look at some bad games. How many mention the programming issues like glitches, or dodgy AI? Yeah, it drew attention to itself. A programmer is only seen and acknowledged when the work is below average. Back in university after clearing a group project and spending many nights building a gameplay style I was told to put in instead of refining other mechanics, I didn’t get to go to the expo to show the game off. The artists, writers, musicians went. Us programmers? Stay at home, put your feet up, your work doesn’t actually sell a game.

It should, because if a game is technically sound, it’s going to be a good game to play and should be fun, right? But your part in that won’t be praised.

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For a field as demanding and knowledge based as programming, one has to wonder why the unsung heroes of game development don’t get recognition, at least when their work is good, alongside their peers in development. It’s an interesting situation and one I am not sure I would know of a solution to. Sure they are in the credits, but the actual conversations beyond that, you’d be hard pressed to hear someone praise a game’s programming.

That is just the thing. As programming isn’t a spoken and praised field like art, or writing, or hell even monetization if you look at the industry today, why should it be taught to students? The people of the world won’t notice it unless it’s bad, and they figure (And I know this is the case), that people who want to be programmers don’t need the teaching. Well, we do. We all learn somehow, and there is only so much Google and books can give you without the insight.

 

I sincerely hope in the future as games become more demanding, programmers get the praise they deserve. They are more than the people in dark cubicles who complain a lot. They make the game work. They make your tools. They gave you the software to develop your animations and art. They are there when something breaks and they would rather be asleep.

And this isn’t even mentioning the industry where if a programming job can be found by someone cheaper, a developer will likely take it regardless of quality. That’s a thing too, I suppose. Labour turn-over is a real issue.

 

 

If you enjoyed this rather different piece, share and leave feedback on social media, and I will see you for the next one. Until then, Happy Gaming!

 

 

EA Has To Be Feeling The Burn Right Now

Star Wars Battlefront II sales figures are in for physical copies at retail from around the world. Oh boy.

 

 

So after the micro transactions mess and now lame excuses from EA, they have now revealed that maybe, just maybe, lootboxes won’t return to Star Wars Battlefront II at all.

EA has previously stated that the game will meet targets of around 14 million by March 2018, and at least match the 2015 predecessor, but now, it looks like that won’t happen.

 

Analysts in the US expected the game, at retail (So physical only) to chart below the original, due to the more prominent digital scene for game distribution now. Estimates coming out before the news breaks tomorrow, is it sold less than 1 million physics units in November.

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That is actually shocking, more so when that is believable, with Black Friday images showing the game going untouched in many stores. Evidently the backlash hit such mainstream presence, it damaged the reputation.

At the same time, it was also Black Friday, better deals and all that. Plus, EA did announce before the game launched that it would be discounted alongside the new Star Wars movie, so both could have had an impact. Either way, those remaining sales won’t have been made up digitally, that is for certain.

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More over in Japan the game debuted…at a solid 30,000 or so, and then fell from the charts. In the UK it’s hung around the top 3, ahead of single platform release Super Mario Odyssey (Which given the circumstances some would say is a sin) but for a game on multiple platforms, not hot, especially as both Call of Duty and FIFA are outselling it still. Granted, those games aren’t innocent either.

So what does this mean? Well, we can only hope EA is re-evaluating its stance, and so is Disney most likely, now more government bodies are looking into the lootbox issue. EA has to be sweating about whatever happens next, and the rest of the industry is now being scrutinised heavily, with Destiny 2 under fire for gating off content you could access in the game behind DLC, even though you had access to it prior the DLC release date.

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Battlefront II won’t hit it’s projected sales targets, and investors won’t be happy. EA had $3bn wiped from their value over the course of this controversy, and while that is small change for them, it shows investors were absolutely not pleased, at least briefly.

EA also said micro transactions weren’t necessary to the game making a profit (Despite many publishers saying they are in fact necessary to do so), but under the current circumstances, they humorously may well have been!

Either way, EA’s monumental screw up has had a huge knock on effect. No one company is safe from scrutiny now, and all it took was one last push, and EA was the one to do it. They pushed too hard too fast, though honestly, I would have expected this event to happen eventually anyway.

Whether they alter their course or not remains to be seen, but we are now in the stage where publishers are attempting tactics and having to apologise afterwards with their tails between their legs.

 

Plus, we get to see every other developer fire shots. That’s something amazing to witness.

 

If you enjoyed this piece as always share and leave some feedback on social media, and I will see you next time. Until then, Happy Gaming!

Preview: Yooka-Laylee on Nintendo Switch! (Spoiler Free)

I got my Backer Code of Yooka-Laylee for Nintendo Switch in today, and I’ve spent some time blasting away at the game, so what are we looking at?

 

First off, I have mostly played in handheld/tabletop mode, so take that for what it’s worth.

Yooka-Laylee is presented as stated by the developers, just below full resolution on both modes. So the image is slightly softer. What is interesting about this and what I noted first, is the game simply feels better being played handheld, as though it fits the screen more than it did when I played on PS4 on my 40″ TV earlier this year.

That seems like an odd compliment but it really does feel at home here. The worlds are very pick up and play via Sleep Mode and with regards to controls, everything is just within reach.

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The game is the same as it has been since launch, only some improvements not available on other systems at launch are standard here. manual camera, audio toggles, fast speech and brief voice snippets, are all welcome additions. This is very much the best version out of the box.

Performance wise, the game is interesting, at 30 FPS, it does occasionally pause, albeit very briefly, seemingly to load something, at least in handheld mode, as well as very brief, very slight, and rare frame rate drops, if only for a second.

When docked, the game runs the same, though the little frame drops don’t seem present, or at least I haven’t encountered them yet within the first world. The image is again, below full resolution of the system, but looks fine, if a little soft.

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So in terms of drawbacks, the main thing is shadows and particles. Shadows are softer and particles seem paired back just slightly, but outside of those honestly minor things, the game seems as is. Maybe water effects are reduced, but those have been so brief in the world so far. It’s entirely possible other effects from elsewhere in the game are reduced further.

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But yes, Yooka-Laylee on Switch certainly is technically below the other verions, but it doesn’t feel like a significant drawback to draw ire. The wait has been worth it, assuming you like this style and structure of game, as obviously that remains unchanged. Yooka-Laylee certainly feels best here.

Behind The Game: Bayonetta Series

Bayonetta is a franchise that has now gone from cult classic, to point of contention, to now having a clear home. So what happened to our favourite Umbra Witch?

 

Bayonetta is the brain child of Platinum Games, a studio famous for Okami and Devil May Cry, before leaving Capcom and becoming independent. Most of Platinum’s work has been on licensed titles (See TMNT, Transformers, Korra etc.) or as hired help for things like Nier Automata and Metal Gear Rising. Their own projects however, haven’t really hit the same heights.

Platinum’s games are very stylised and fast paced, full of action, but often have little caveats of detail and depth that open it up to a more dedicated audience. Bayonetta isn’t just Devil Mat Cry, it has layers, combos, weapons, upgrades, like a mini-RPG hack and slash.

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So when SEGA published Bayonetta and let Platinum have a free reign with a game, it hit Xbox 360 and later (Though very inferior quality wise) the PS3. I didn’t play the game at this time, I had a PS3 late 2010 and so Bayonetta completely skipped over me. A shame too, as when I spoke to a retail employee when pre-ordering the sequel, they talked me into the double-pack (I was the only one there to order it too!).

Bayonetta across both platforms though, seemingly didn’t sell well enough for SEGA. A sequel was planned but never came to be, later revealed to be an issue with no one seeing value in the title, except for one publisher. Maybe the provocative nature of the game was a turn off, or maybe the marketing wasn’t very good. Either way, it didn’t hit internal expectations.

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Nintendo of all people, stepped in, paying for the development of the game and publishing rights. SEGA still owned the IP, but at that moment when the Wii U was up and coming, the news Bayonetta 2 would be exclusive was shocking. To say some places reacted poorly would be an understatement, but the writing was on the wall: If the series was to continue, and Platinum was to be given complete freedom, Nintendo had to step in when no one else would.

So a double pack of both games hit the Wii U late 2014, to acclaim. For what it’s worth considering the system it was on, Bayonetta 2 sold well, and then the series went quiet. It became a cult hit, a must have on Wii U, and Nintendo was evidently very happy to allow Nintendo themed costumes and assets into both games.  They even had Platinum co-develop Star Fox Zero, a title with mixed reception, but a solid game none the less.

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What follows next is quite possibly the biggest indication of the future for the IP. With the cancellation of Scalebound at the hands of Microsoft earlier this year, another Platinum dreamed IP shafted, and some great work as hired help, Platinum was given, by popular fan vote as it happens, a chance for Bayonetta to enter Super Smash Bros. and they leapt at the chance, back in late 2015.

Personally to me and many others around the world, that moment sealed it. Bayonetta had found a home, and it was one Platinum was clearly more than willing to go with. The response to Bayonetta 2 and her inclusion in Super Smash Bros. alongside two amiibo figures, cemented her and the franchise as a Nintendo staple, which looking back on what people consider typical “Nintendo fare” is quite humorous.

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Now regarding the future of Bayonetta as a franchise, I openly would have said maybe Bayonetta 3 wouldn’t happen, but Platinum was listed by Nintendo as a key developer for them, and Platinum themselves were teasing both Wonderful 101 (Another Nintendo aided project for Wii U) and Bayonetta.

Come along the Game Awards 2017, and at last, we were graced with the new that Bayonetta and Bayonetta 2 are coming to Nintendo Switch in February as a double pack. Great news for those who haven’t played the original on 360/PS3/PC/Wii U, and the many yet to play the sequel. It didn’t stop there though.

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Bayonetta 3 has been the shock of recent weeks, with many now eagerly awaiting more news about the Nintendo Switch exclusive. It has become apparent where the future of Bayonetta lies, and while SEGA still owns the IP, Nintendo is once again letting Platinum make their dream, and fans around the world are now eagerly looking for the next showing.

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That’s the real success of Bayonetta. The fans pushed it, getting her into Smash via popular vote, making the original such a cult hit, and showing that something Platinum made won’t be forgotten. As we move forward to the releases of the first two games, and eventually the third title, fans of the franchise are happy to see Bayonetta has a home in an unlikely place, with Platinum given the freedom they wanted for their own IP.

 

The future of Bayonetta is clear: Nintendo wants this franchise to flourish and develop, and Platinum is all too happy to do so. Bayonetta 3 will most probably be the best-selling entry in the series to date, and you can bet future Smash Bros. games will feature the witch in her combo based glory, and a fourth title will emerge.

 

 

If you enjoyed this look over the Bayonetta franchise with Behind The Game don’t forget to share and like the post, send it to your friends, let us know what you think of the series, and we will see you next time. Happy Gaming!

Valve: Why Did You Stop Evolving?

Valve created Steam well over a decade ago now, with the sole purpose of reinvigorating, restoring, and evolving the PC Gaming place. So why the hell did they stop?

 

I will open this by saying, while I am very much a periphery to PC Gaming and its largest audience, I have been aware, involved in, and observant of it for well over 5 years. In those 5 years, I have seen my housemates, friends, colleagues, all using it, but I never dived in. Something felt wrong.

That something, was how I was always reminded I was looking at something from the mid 2000s. Clunky, albeit robust in a way, but the impression I always got from it was the “Ma and Pa store on the high street”. Quaint. Funny. Quirky. A great idea that needs to grow. That’s what people said about it. In some ways, yeah back when it was new, that probably actually was the image it had. So why in 2012 did I still see that?

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The thing with Steam is that it’s the primary digital distribution platform for PC. Sure you have Humble and GOG, but they don’t come close to the market share. If you want games, you use Steam. If you want deals, they can often offer great deals, just to keep that competition down, as they’ve been there the longest, and have accumulated a lot of wealth in the back pockets.

Valve created Steam as a way to revitalise PC Gaming. It had hit a slump when Steam first came along, it needed some solid store presence, and that was Steam. You can get refunds, you can get games with great deals, download them to your device, and pray you can play them without some additional DRM getting in the way (I mean, Steam is DRM).

In the mid 2000s, sure, that was awesome. in 2017 though, and even back when I first saw it in 2012, has it evolved much? No, not really. Steam has numerous problems, all traceable, as far as I am concerned, back to one thing and one thing only. The two main problems I want to focus on though, is functionality, and content. They have the same root cause however.

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Look how far I had to go before I stopped seeing “Released on Today’s Date!”

 

Starting with functionality, Steam is a bit of a mess. It’s all algorithms, something now even YouTube is realising probably isn’t the best way to handle things. Games are suggested half-heartedly, there are “Alleged” content filters for you, it’s very automated. It’s mechanical, a process. That very process with some things is unrefined. Take for instance screenshots, because you can’t just PrintScreen stuff, you press F12. But to view said screenshot in your accounts gallery, listed under your account, there are steps to take.

I actually asked some PC aficionados why this is. They said it’s because you don’t want all your screenshots being viewed publicly. I told them, well like on any other platform, they should just be saved to your gallery, where you can then edit and set permissions as to whether some are private or not. Simple stuff. Turns out, you can set permissions like that, but not from within the gallery, but from within the incredibly small “Main” menu at the very top of the UI, under Screenshots, which is where you go to publish screenshots before they enter your gallery, and I have to ask, why? Why has this system been left in place when across almost every platform imaginable, it is streamlined and simple? Why did Valve simply stop evolving Steam, something they made Steam to do in the first place?

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But that isn’t all. That is minor functionality compared to refunds. In the event of a refund, it is only eligible within two weeks, and two hours of play time. So why, please someone tell me, can someone live stream an entire game, just under 4 hours, and then live stream themselves being awarded a refund with a false reasons given being “I bought the wrong game”? Let’s ignore the fact they live streamed it, and question why the hell Steam awarded a refund for a play time that was out of the rules they themselves set? Do they just not care? There has to be someone on the other side right? Otherwise that wouldn’t just go through an automated system!

This is baffling. Steam has these rules in place and they can just be walked around. Casually is if nothing is wrong with that. This loops back to the problem of content now.

It has been well documented by critics such as Jim Sterling and others, that Steam has a curation issue. No one is actually at their desk doing anything, and if reports are anything to go by, Valve doesn’t have a defined structure, staff just do whatever, and having seen Half-Life get a patch earlier this year I can believe that.

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Steam left curation to the community. A bold idea, back when it had the Ma and Pa store look to it, but now, Valve Corporation, you should have staff. God knows you have the cash to do it! But back to curation, Greenlight, as anyone who leaves something up to a community will know, was a disaster. Abused, broken down, and indies felt their genuinely good games are, well, buried really. They are.

Now with Steam Direct….let’s not even go there. It’s done nothing. It hasn’t helped. The entry fee is the same as it was for Greenlight, which doesn’t help matters, and it seems like there is less curation. Indies have become openly resentful of the situation, and I have to agree.

In a 10 month period where 6000 games are released on Steam (Yes 6000), which is a 50% increase over the whole of 2016 at 4000, one has to wonder why a single platform is getting triple the games that the PS3 got in its lifetime, in less than a single year. Why is this the case? Does Valve not have any concept of curation? No, they don’t, and we come to what I believe is the root of the issue.

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Money. Valve is swimming in it. They evolved the PC space and made bank, competitors can’t come close to their market share as they have the funds to flash sale away and keep people in the ecosystem.

Valve even makes games! Well, I say that loosely. They made a few games, maybe once or twice a decade, and just rolls in micro transactions and DLC sales, and of course, a cut of all those submission fees they get from Steam Direct, and every game sold on Steam. Now as for why I say they make/made games in a loose manner, is because…well a lot of them they just bought, or were mods of games that they published. Valve themselves do very little, they don’t need to. They can sit and be happy.

Steam was created to evolve PC gaming. But Valve, being a corporation, as much as they like to say and act otherwise, has hit the gold rush and stopped. They don’t need to anymore. They don’t need to be proactive, keep pushing with their philosophy, or even make games! Money just makes itself now, and the rest of the world is evolving past them. Valve has become purely reactionary, you can see that with how they handle even controversy and poor games: It’s all after the fact.

 

 

Valve….I mean at this point my only suggestion is hire people. Get a corporate structure, get people to actually work. Or any day now, hopefully, someone will come and evolve the market in a way you should have done ages ago.

 

 

Thanks for reading, and if you have any comments or want to share this with friends, please do so! Thanks for reading, and Happy Gaming!

Mega Man 11 Exists, and Why My Jaw Is On The Floor!

Where the actual hell did all that come from, Capcom?

 

Wow. So I’m in a moment of absolute shock. Given Capcom’s recent actions, I expected absolutely nothing from the Mega Man 30th Anniversary stream. Not one thing. After Legacy Collection 2 skipping Nintendo Switch, all the cancelled games, their other shenanigans with other franchises and attitudes towards platforms, I just figured it was merch.

 

My foot is firmly lodged in my mouth.

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So let’s start with this: The Mega Man X Collection, featuring X1-8, with the first ever re-releases of X7 and X8, and in the EU, the first ever re-releases of X4-6. I am overjoyed at finally being able to sink my teeth into the PS1 titles, since otherwise I’d need to seek original copies. This is a huge deal both for EU gamers, and gamers world-wide, and of course, it’s coming to all platforms.

Then we have Mega Man Legacy Collection 1 AND 2 coming to Nintendo Switch. After the sales success on 3DS one has to wonder why this didn’t happen sooner, but they have amiibo support, and the developers expressed regret at not being able to do this sooner.

 

But then, man, Mega Man 11. Who saw this 2.5D styled, really cool looking HD title coming, to be released late 2018? The entire project from the developer interviews reeks of passion, and they admitted they wanted to evolve and resurrect Mega Man, and Capcom has finally allowed them to. This entire endeavour looks like something passionate developers and veterans of both 2D gaming and Mega Man as a series have wanted to make for years.

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Can I have this as a wallpaper please?

 

Capcom, I am very harsh on you. I still think a lot of your decisions on a corporate level have been restricting to developers regarding budgets and time limits, and shoving certain platforms (*cough* Switch) to one side even though it would benefit you is exceptionally stupid, but one thing is clear.

You have finally let the chains off of Mega Man, the developers can make the game they want to make, that we want to see, and I can’t thank you enough for giving them that freedom.

Now roll on 2018 baby!

Behind The Game Update: 2/12/2017

Alright guys, forgive me for being quiet this past week, it’s been rough.

 

But now we have some future plans!

 

So, the next full “Behind The Game Article” will be Metroid Prime. I want to take apart the pre-release of that game especially, as it was a very interesting time both from the gamer and developer standpoints.

 

Secondly, our next main review will be Metroid Prime. I just really want to 100% the game for the first time and I’ve been in the mood to sink my teeth into it. I may review a few smaller games before then, but the next big review is indeed Metroid Prime.

 

As for upcoming articles, regarding what Take Two just said about doing all digital confirms my suspicions regarding what I said about them in a previous article, and EA just keeps digging, so be sure I’ll update or write new articles in due course.

 

Outside of any other articles I really want to write, I suppose the next one would be dissecting Steam. I have some bones to pick their. After that, we will see.

 

So thanks for your patience guys, I will keep you guys posted over on Twitter (Link above) and as always, Happy Gaming!

Games and Accessibility: Don’t Leave Us Out

My past year in gaming has highlighted things that really should be addressed in games more often.

 

So fun fact: I have severe deuteranopia. This means some shades of red/green/brown (Anything in that range) can look identical. This means the colour spectrum I see is far more limited.

 

So on a 4K TV you have many more pixels, many more instances of colour, but with how little colour range I have, it can mean that a lot of those pixels look the same. The same is true for 1080p, or even 240p. But the more pixels there are, the more there is for my eyes to confuse.

In the image below, its actual the SDR image where I get better detail:

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Add in HDR and well, we have a mess. The increased colour range of the display is nice, assuming you can distinguish them all. If you can’t, that’s just more shades of red and green to mix in with the others you can’t distinguish. And no, this isn’t me against the notion of 4K.

 

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I didn’t know I was colour vision deficient for 19 years of my life, but in 2016 I got my hands on DOOM. Great game, by the way. This was relatively smooth sailing, until the 4th stage, which was in Hell. A lot of red and brown. Red mists, rocks, particles, red enemies, brown objects, you guessed it, it was like looking at a blob on the screen.

Thankfully, there is a mode for each form of colour deficiency, so I got a lovely, what the press termed it before release, “Piss filter” instead. But everything is far more visible, and I am no longer walking off of ledges because I can’t see the end for the other objects in the distance. I am no longer missing my shots, or my jumps.

But if the game, like so many sadly, didn’t have this feature? I couldn’t beat it. I have tried, even with my memory of the game, I can’t do it. Some games I find impossible to play. If Overwatch didn’t have colour blind options, I couldn’t tell who was on what team unless they hit me.

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But this higher resolution, wider colour range thing is what Microsoft, Sony and PC are pushing towards. Bigger screens, more colour…and not having the colour blind modes so people like me can play the game without either straining, or just having to give up. A lot of games simply don’t feature them, and there are games I want to try, but can’t.

Plus in marketing, taking DOOM again, I wanted to see how the Nintendo Switch version looked compared to my PS4 version. The catch was, no colour blind footage. So I had no way to tell how low the game looked to my eyes.

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And of course, this is not just to mention my article on the sheer importance of controls. Take 1-2 Switch, a game I will never talk about again most likely, that can be played by the hard of sight due to relying on sound and haptic feedback for a lot of games. That is a huge deal!

But a lot of games don’t account for the fact that this is a thing. Sure, you can’t make a controller that works in every situation, but occasionally you get a Rhythm Heaven or 1-2 Switch for the hard of sight, you get a colour blind mode for someone like me, you develop ways to make games more accessible, some far simpler than others.

 

Ultimately, I’d like to see even the basic modes be implemented into future games, since while the tech pushes on and on and creates more impressive visuals, with each passing year people like myself are left further and further behind, and some have been left already. In the world of gaming, that is just upsetting to see. We are all gamers, and we should all be able to play.

 

As always if you enjoyed this article give it a share and leave your thoughts below, and I will see you next time! Until then, Happy Gaming!

Game Reveals, and Why Timing Is Everything!

We all know this frustration. A game is announced, no release date attached, and then you think: It’s years away. Why is this such a bad idea?

 

Well truthfully, announcing something before it is ready, or even before active development, is a terrible idea for consumers and for developers.

For the gamers, you have to understand there is a “Hype cycle” announce a game a few months too early and people will be clamouring to just see it be released already, the “We get it please shut up” approach. This actually happened with Super Mario Odyssey if you can believe it.

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On the flip side for gamers, announcing it soon or close to release isn’t such a bad idea. It may be for their wallets but you get a good period of time to promote the game and out the door. Something like Wolfenstein II or Mario + Rabbids springs to mind, with a few months between reveal and launch.

This goes down incredibly well. A focused, brief campaign, not too stretching on the budget, and it keeps the game in the cycle for the duration with well-timed releases. This benefits the developer as well. Gamers want it now, so getting it as fast as possible in concise ways is great.

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Then we have what happens when you announce a game too far in advance. We all know the success or horror stories of games being announced close to launch, either with great campaigns or people forgetting said game was even coming out (Evil Within 2 anyone?) but the other end of the scale is far, far worse.

 

Who remembers Final Fantasy XV? Who remembers what it originally was? Final Fantasy Versus XIII, a spin-off to Final Fantasy XIII. This game was announced all the way back in 2006, final lands in 2016. It took over 10 years to finally arrive, going through development hell (Though reports suggest by 2012 it was barely in development anyway) and changes in staff.

The problem is, I can’t fathom why Square Enix felt the need to announce a spin-off to a game that wouldn’t even come out for another 3 years. Final Fantasy XIII didn’t land until 2009, so the timing of this reveal makes no sense. When you don’t know the first game will be a hit or not, why try to build a universe around it?

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To compound issues, let’s jump to 2013, with Kingdom Hearts 3, now saddled with a 2018 (Sure) release date. We haven’t seen much of the game, but apparently it’s coming in 2018. But now gamers are frustrated and just want a date and to finally play the thing.

Jump ahead to 2015, where Sony announced that the Last Guardian was coming to PS4, a game announced in 2009 I might add, Shenmue 3 via crowdfunding (Yes really) which has had spotty development updates and no gameplay shown, yet is due next year apparently, and Final Fantasy 7 Remake, of which we have seen some gameplay, it fell off the radar, and reports of development restructuring came to light. It’s also episodic, so expect to finish the remake in 2030.

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All these games had the same problem. They showcased ideas. They didn’t sell us the game, they simply said it existed. Then radio silence, the gamers get nothing. Doing that, as shown with Final Fantasy XV, is incredibly damaging, as during development you don’t know how much it will change, if it will be cancelled, but having nothing to show instills no confidence in the consumer.

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But then there is the damage to the hype cycle. Take E3 2017 for Sony. It was a repeat of 2016, barring a sprinkling of new games, and this left people wondering, why was that stuff at E3 2016, when it could have been held over for this year, closer to release (We think), and some stuff from 2015 that still isn’t dated could be pushed into E3 2016. It creates a confusing message for the consumer, games appearing and disappearing at random with no clear timeline, just that they exist, and based on how things go you may or may not be shown new things next year. It’s damaging to the image of the games.

Plus, being honest and personal for a moment, announcing a game too early in development means if a snag does come up, and bam, one delay. This is very damaging to a hype cycle and while people say “It’ll be more time to make the game better”, sometimes you have to wonder if the perception of a delayed game would be different if we didn’t know how long it had been in development.

 

Will this impact sales? Probably not. Though FFXV has yet to hit budget apparently (Can’t think why), and the PlayStation titles will no doubt sell well, the gaming world is looking for faster, more rewarding turnarounds. As some developers know, letting it stew for too long builds some unrealistic expectations.

 

 

If you enjoyed this article then give it a like and a share, and I’ll see you all next time! Until then, Happy Gaming!

Physical Games Media: Time To Catch Up

Physical storage media for games that you buy from a brick and mortar store is under fire, mostly on Nintendo Switch due to downloading the remainder of big games that don’t fit, or cheaper developers skimping on costs, but this is the case on all systems.

 

So what spurred this? Well two things. One is Resident Evil Revelations Collection news a few days ago, where Capcom Europe announced that again, like usual, they won’t have a physical run of the game in the EU due to costs. These costs involve paying PEGI and other ratings boards, shipping, distribution, localisation, it’s a bit of a mess to be fair. But even in other regions (Except Japan allegedly), the two games come as such: 1 on a card (The smaller game I might add) and the 2nd game as a download code.

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This isn’t uncommon. The “Switch Tax” as it has become known is just a laundry list of third-party games that cost more on Nintendo Switch, attributed to cartridge costs. L.A. Noire, RiME, the list goes on. Is this entirely true? Not…really? Without official figures on costs we will likely never know, but one idea is that it is simply just price gauging a new market, which is normal. But the inclusion of goodies like OST keys and pins in physical editions shows developers and publishers (Indies, typically) want to sweeten the deal for physical buyers to offset that price.

The next issue with the game cards is actually publishers like Take Two, who have released LA Noire, NBA 2K18 and WWE 2K18 on the horizon. Each game is “Playable” without downloading the remainder, but there has been widespread panning of this move, instead with people preferring to pay a little premium and have the whole experience on a 32GB card, as opposed to what is right now, a 4GB or 8GB card, with the rest as a download.

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In the case of something like DOOM, this is handled quite well. The game fits all single player and DLC content on the card (16GB) and offers all the multiplayer as a download. This way you don’t miss any of the “Main event”. With Take Two though, it’s been revealed that the backlash against the Switch copy being only “Partly physical” should also be levelled at the other editions.

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On PS4 and Xbox One you use Blu-Ray discs, that hold up to 50GB of data. Most games fit on this, and L.A. Noire most certainly would. However, interestingly enough that game actually only has a small amount on the disc, the rest as a download. This is a mirror of what happens on Switch. Why? Simple: It’s cheaper. While full capacity Blu-Ray discs are cheaper than the 32GB cards on Switch, publishers, as noted by Take Two saying the following, want “Maximum Profits”:

“We’ve said that we aim to have recurrent consumer spending opportunities for every title that we put out at this company. It may not always be an online model, it probably won’t always be a virtual currency model, but there will be some ability to engage in an ongoing basis with our titles after release across the board,”

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The truth is the digital storefronts of Xbox Live and PlayStation Network offer something physical games don’t: More money per sale. The prices are often the same regardless, but one of them won’t factor in costs of production, shipping, retailer cuts and so on. On PS4 and Xbox One this model of Digital Only is being pushed heavily, as both systems, even if using discs, just install them to the hard drive anyway, making the disc just a form of DRM and to save you downloading all of a game, instead (In this case anyway) most of it.

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So what does this mean? Well your internal storage is being eaten up anyway, why not just go digital and be more convenient on yourself (Until the game gets pulled from the store…) and you can even get those Digital Gold Editions publishers like so much. In the end, more money for them. Take Two is the most brazen with this, as their games come piece meal regardless of format.

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But sticking with Xbox One for a moment, let’s loop back to the complaint you have to download most of these third-party Switch games to get the full and best experience (OR complete experience) even when you buy physically.

The Xbox One X recently launched, and with it comes the ability to use actual UHD (4K) assets, which I assume (I haven’t got one of the boxes, I’m not rich!) look amazing. The problem with these are the file sizes are enormous, with HALO 5 and Forza Motorsport 7 passing 90GB to 100GBs each! Final Fantasy XV on PC is 170GBs, so that won’t fit on ANY current disc.

The catch here is to fully utilise your new shiny console, to get the best experience you can, you will have to download a good 50GB of game, or more heaven forbid. Why? The games have to come on standard Blu-Ray because they ALSO need to work on the basic Xbox One and One S. So what does this mean? These huge games require downloads, because the storage medium can’t hold them.

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To confound this issue further, there IS a storage medium that COULD hold them. UHD Blu-ray. They go up to 100GBs. In fact, looking at how long regular Blu-Ray has been used for gaming (Since 2006 with the PS3), one would expect UHD Blu-Ray would be used by now, but an issue there would be cost. At which point no matter which option you take, you have the same issue as you do on Nintendo Switch: Games are too big for the medium flat-out, or the medium is too costly to use to store a full game. Sure it’s a little different, where the devices don’t even support UHD Blu-Ray (Well, the Xbox One S and X do for movies…) but the problem even then still persists when some games on the basic PS4 and Xbox One go over GB anyway!

 

The third-party publishers want a digital only future. Consumers are leaning to it from convenience. Console makers can’t keep up with the scope of games due to costs. A digital only future is most likely coming down the line. Physical media is already outdated on PS4 and Xbox One, skipped out on with all systems by publishers wanting to save costs, and too expensive on Switch and for UHD to hold the games being made in their entirety.

Let’s just hope they include bigger hard drives in the next ones right? 1TB in the Xbox One X…eesh.

 

As always if you enjoyed this give a like and share on social media, and I will see you next time! Happy Gaming!

Capcom May Be Short On Cash…

News today has confirmed my beliefs: Capcom is running low on money.

 

In a statement to NintendoLife, Capcom revealed that Resident Evil Revelations Collection will NOT be receiving a physical release in the EU.

Capcom has to take various factors into account when deciding what format to deliver our titles to our fans. These can include but are not limited to overall production costs, manufacturing times, distribution, and first party regulations. In the case of Resident Evil Revelations, we’ve found that unfortunately it’s not viable for Capcom Europe to create a physical version of the title on Nintendo Switch for our territories, however we will be making this available as a digital release.

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Honestly though, breaking this down it reveals there is no real reason for this.

 

Here in Europe, you can get physical releases of both Revelations titles, readily available on Amazon, for other systems. If it was truly a cost measure, then maybe I could buy it. Cartridges are expensive after all, but the Collection only has the smaller first title on cartridge. The second game is a download code. Capcom can’t even print a half-assed attempt at a physical collection here! By all logic…this would be cheaper than printing two separate discs for other systems, two unique SKUs, and having both rated separately by PEGI.

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In fact, the cost issue is potentially true: PEGI costs a lot of money for submission and rating of physical games. Plus, the cost of printing Nintendo Switch games is also fairly steep, but then again, only one of the games is even physical anyway.

Plus, indie titles are going physical left and right. With the size of Capcom you would think their EU division could be better funded, but here we are. The truth is coming to light.

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I’ve noted this before, but Capcom, with the exception of Resident Evil 7, has had a rough time. Street Fighter V is being re-released. Marvel Vs. Capcom Infinite was a footnote in their financials and they even dodged questions about it. Their remasters and collections seem to be dodging more accepting platforms for those games (As historically noted with sales) in favour of keeping costs down. The leaked budget (If it can be called that…) for MVC:Infinite is laughable, and shows how tight the ship has become.

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I have said it before in another article but Capcom, I swear now more than ever, this better pay off. Monster Hunter World is throwing away your existing Japanese fanbase, and Western fanbase, in the hope you reach a bigger audience despite appealing to what will most likely be a smaller Japanese audience by sheer install base. To do this, you are spending more money developing the game. It better pay off Capcom, I sincerely hope so, because if it doesn’t, the writing is clear.

Personally, I’m also sick of Capcom giving Europe the shaft AGAIN regarding physical releases, like the Megaman Legacy Collections, almost every Mega Man Collection actually, and many, many more games we either didn’t get, or got digital only because “Cost”.

 

Tomorrow, there will be a bigger article about physical distribution across all platforms, because no system is sage anymore.

But until then, leave some comments, share with your friends, and I’ll see you all next time! Happy Gaming!

Lootboxes: Are They Really Gambling?

Lootboxes are a hot and noisy topic across the internet and now, even with governments and main stream media. But are they gambling?

 

So this discussion has multiple view points and honestly each has merit. I fall on one particular side of this fence that’s a little unique, but that’s for the end.

So PEGI and the ESRB don’t count lootboxes as gambling, as according to them, there is no specific legislation against the practice, and unlike actual gambling, you are guaranteed a reward. This is actually entirely true. Even if you don’t want what you get, investment is returned.

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China is a little different, making Overwatch display odds of items, and classifying lootboxes as “Lottery tickets”. Here in the UK, lottery tickets are counted under gambling laws and age restrictions. So we already have overlap based on different countries.

Belgium is now investigating both Overwatch (The harbinger of the craze really) and Star Wars Battlefront 2, for child gambling. Namely, the idea of introducing monetary games of chance to minors. This I also agree with. The last thing you want is the seeds of gambling addiction from games.

This got so severe when the main stream media like BBC and CNN picked this up, that Disney called EA and soon after in app purchases were disabled, at least temporarily, in Star Wars Battlefront 2. Likely a way to save their brand image.

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Now my stance actually comes from PEGI themselves. It actually stems from Pokémon.

Pokémon no longer has Game Corners, due to gambling laws here in the EU (We didn’t have them from Pokémon Platinum onwards) and in the re-releases of earlier games on the 3DS eShop, they carry a 12+ rating, solely for gambling. The trading of virtual currency you pay no money for in exchange for the chance of profit is labelled clearly on the box as gambling to the extent later games remove the feature entirely, but when using real world money for the privilege and a slight change in that you are guaranteed rewards even if you don’t want them, it’s not gambling.

 

To me personally, this makes no sense. You can’t hold both to different standards, but then the argument comes to something like Trading Card Games. Booster Packs are effectively lootboxes. So are Kinder Eggs. So are many things. What makes lootboxes in games different? Nothing.

 

I feel as though the argument has become skewed. From one side there is the fight whether these constitute gambling or not, or an entry to such addictions, and on the other, the argument they have no place in a full price retail game.

Either way, precedents are about to be set.

 

 

If you enjoyed this brief discussion (I’ve been in the hospital!), share with your friends and comment away, and until next time, Happy Gaming!

 

The Unfortunate Obsession with Metacritic

The industry has a bit of an obsession with Metacritic scores. Both consumers, and unfortunately publishers, look at the numbers in a way that has proven not only counterproductive, but dangerous in recent years.

 

Metacritic (And similar aggregators) have a simple job: Collect review scores and average them out. Now that’s all well and good and can be a useful source for a range of different reviews on a game, movie, music and so on.

Metacritic though has become a focal point. The vaunted goal, the barometer of what’s worth buying, and even what determines developers getting bonuses. Yes, Metacritic alone has become a huge part of the industry, and while it does a job that is needed, namely collecting reviews into one place for convenience, how it does it and the impact of that, is the problem.

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First, the rise of competitors such as OpenCritic have raised awareness that Metacritic seemingly acts selectively with getting reviews from places, requiring verification. Further, it also reaches very slightly different averages, indicating that some reviews are weighted more than others. Weighting is in fact a key point that we will come back to later.

Another issue is review scores, because that’s what Metacritic uses for an average, will be based on different criteria. A 7 from one site is a different set of criteria from a 7 elsewhere. But for Metacritic, a 7 is a 7. The reasoning behind the number could be completely different, but the context behind that number is ultimately lost.

The idea that Metacritic and other aggregators can give a consensus is a bit foolish. ure, it will say “Generally Favourable” or “Mixed” or whatever other word of the times it chooses, but is that accurate, when the context behind those numbers is lost? The average number is just a basis from generalisation.  A game could come out with 80/100 and be “Generally Favourable” only for the reality underneath to be…well mixed. This is especially prevalent with mixed or divisive games, as outliers skew the data, and in statistics, significant outliers are anomalous. But Metacritic doesn’t care about anomalies and their context, just the number. More pull is assigned to the lower end of the scale, so even if a game has by all accounts more “Positive” reviews than “Mixed”, the “Mixed” weight it down. On top of THAT, not every game will have the same number of reviews, further skewing data.

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I’m going to keep bringing up that number, because just like on this site and our refusal to score reviews (Again, context is key), that number in recent years has become the most contested aspect of any game.

The 4 point scale, admittedly nowadays more like 3 point scale, is a problem. Undoubtedly so in fact, to the point where now, a game below an 8/10 is considered bad. Yes, really, and I wish it wasn’t the case. A key factor in this is in fact aggregators have weighted (There is that word again) the averages.

Say you have a 10 point scale, in this case 1-100. If that was to represent a range of values from terrible, to bad, to average, to great, to excellent, why would 50% of that scale be assigned to “Negative” and below? Why is 50%-75% the range for “Average”? Why is the range for “Good to Excellent” only the upper 25%?

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This doesn’t make any sense. The cream of the crop would stand out regardless, so why is there a significantly larger range for games to be considered bad, than the other 2 general ratings? Why is the general bar for “Okay” around, of all things, 75-80%?

This extends to the issue regarding the 4 point scale. As the averages are locked to this upper half of the board, and most games fall in that range, it starts to push the minimum for what gamers call “Acceptable” up and up over time. Once, it was 7. It’s closer to 8 now and heaven forbid it hits 9/10.

These scores, and the uneven distribution and attribution of values given to the scores, is simply nothing more than fuel for a fire, of my game is better than yours, and so on so forth, amongst gamers, or even attacks on developers. It’s okay to have high standards, but average is not 7/10.

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Finally we are going to come to the other obsessed group: Publishers. Companies like EA and a handful of others, are known for tying bonuses for developers to a Metacritic score. Get a certain score, or no bonus. This is the dumbest, most disrespectful thing imaginable.

Sure, you should get a bonus for doing a good job or working extra hard. That is true of any industry. But developers go through crunch time, unpaid overtime, without union support. Worse to that, if the game has great visuals, and those artists, animators and modellers did the best they have ever done, but the programming leaves the game a mess with a low score, those visual development staff won’t get a bonus, even if it is their best work.

This is of course, assuming they still have the job afterwards, due to high turnover in the industry as well. Bonuses for a developer should be based on the work of the individual, and not held behind an arbitrary and without context number that a publisher wants to see, that can be broken down by a completely separate part of the development staff.

 

 

The industry has manifested a culture of abusing developers and not giving them their dues, based on what other people think. Not their work individually, not even what the publisher thinks, but what the rest of the world thinks, and the obsession with every increasing standards and a shrinking scale of what is acceptable means that this culture will only hurt developers in the end.

 

As always if you enjoyed this, give it a share and let me know what you think on social media. Until next time, Happy Gaming!

 

Review: Sonic Forces

Title: Sonic Forces
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: SEGA

Copy Provided By: Bought it with my own money!

 

 

Sonic Forces is an interesting game. On its own merits, you can see ideas that would work excellently if given time to develop, and gameplay that in the past has been spot on. It’s a winning idea really. So why does this game strike the average feeling so half heartedly?

So first, some positives. This game looks great. Vibrant, colourful, and runs smoothly. Audio wise, some of the tunes I could do without, namely for the “Classic” levels, but a lot are top-notch unique tracks, some with vocals that really suit a stage. Even the overuse of synth isn’t a detriment, as the music is composed around the instruments.

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Now if we are being honest, this is a game of three parts. Each has its merits and drawbacks but before any of that, let’s talk story.

Story wise, this game is a mess. There are ideas started, that are never finished. There are points that are brought up and then dropped. There are huge opportunities that are simply in the game as marketing tools. The returning 4 villains for instance are nothing more than cut-scene fodder, and any plot point with them is dropped as important while the story shifts to another thread. Chaos and Shadow aren’t even fought, instead being dealt with in cinematics, and Chaos…Chaos just is. This creature shows up for 2 scenes and vanishes. There was potential here, and it raises the question: How often did this game end up being rewritten?

The main plot, or rather the one that actually ends up being followed through, is nothing special. The tone of the story is fine, albeit sometimes taking itself a little too seriously. The main villain of the game “Infinite” is enjoyable, though the resolution to the whole plot is rather empty. Infinite just disappears after being bested, you get your final boss and…hooray we won. That’s another point against the story. Like a lot of this game, it feels unfinished.

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The game is broken up into 30 main stages, including boss fights, with numerous extra and secret stages unlocked via progression or collecting Red Star Rings. Red Star Rings are 5 per level and are fairly simple to get. Nothing more than an alternate pathway or a little tricky platforming to get. Collecting all 5 unlocks 5 numbered rings that you must collect in sequence. Doing that unlocks 5 silver rings that you must collect in a short time. This is true for every stage. Unfortunately, outside of Red Star Rings, you get nothing for doing this in-game.

Missions are also a thing, both daily and regular, and it amounts to no more than busy work, such as maxing out rank on each avatar species, stomping a certain number of enemies, clear each stage fast enough, use each weapon enough, so on so forth. You get nothing for this either.

So with all this fluff, all you get for beating missions is items for your avatar. There is a huge assortment of items to select from, so you will be spoilt for choice in the end, though seeing the game list your unlocks after every mission gets tiresome fast. The avatar creator itself is simple to use and the creativity possible, while not incredible by any stretch, is a fun novel experiment.

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The gameplay for the avatar is also novel. You take your character (With their own native secondary ability such as a double jump or pulling in items when near, species dependant) and run in a shifting 2D/3D space just like Modern Sonic. The grapple hook is used automatically most times, though some are down to the player, and the avatar can use it to homing attack enemies, albeit this is fairly slow.

The character also has Wispons. These are unlimited use weapons you equip before each stage. Drill for instance, lets you dash forward and destroy any enemies. Void swallows enemies and objects in a generous radius. Hover acts like a shotgun that can launch enemies into each other, also with generous range. These are pretty simple though novel ideas, albeit enemies don’t pose much of a threat anyway.

Additionally, Wisps can be used with their corresponding weapon. You can only use say, Red Burst, with the Burst Wispon, and so on. These are used mainly for navigation and are limited in use, such as air jumps, flight, creating platforms, and travelling through lines of rings.

The avatar system is a good idea, but could have been fleshed out more.

 

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Modern Sonic returns to the Boost gameplay of past games (Minus a Drift feature for some reason) and largely it works the same. Destroy enemies or White Wisp capsules to fill a boost gauge and go to town. There is also a double jump feature but it’s very limited in helping you given its minimal height.

These levels typically have the most thought put into them, as high-speed platforming can quickly transition to a race or grinding sequence thrill ride. Additional paths are strewn throughout the levels for those observant, though they are often brief.  The only downside is when boosting, the ability to turn is reduced exponentially, something a Drift feature would have alleviated. Expect to find yourself hugging the sides of paths a lot.

Both the Avatar and Modern Sonic however, share a similar issue regarding 2D and jumping. The distance you can travel in the air feels inconsistent, and during my time with the avatar I noted moments where he would gain maximum speed immediately after landing from a jump, resulting in death. It’s sloppy to be sure, with inconsistency being its biggest flaw. This remains true in the few tag team stages as well, where you control both Sonic and the Avatar, except the stages are designed to use either or.

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Finally, is Classic Sonic, a character I didn’t mention in the plot summary, as this chubby little fella has absolutely no reason to be here. To be frank, the game may be better without him.

So, during the obligatory “pinball” themed stage for the little guy, I felt forced momentum. This is where the game completely changes and locks your momentum, so you only ever travel a set distance after interacting with say, a bumper, or flipper. This made those sections, particularly awkward, but more so is how this applies to jumps.

Not only does Classic Sonic have the same momentum issue regarding speed and jumping distance as the other characters, his jump is cancelled out by hitting enemies or boxes. Bounce on an enemy, your momentum ends, and that gap just ahead of you wont be cleared, in fact you’ll fall right in. It feels very stiff and unnatural.

Similar, Classic Sonic feels heavy when running or jumping regardless, with acceleration only occurring when curled into a ball, and even then, it’s sluggish. The Drop Dash returns from Sonic Mania and does, thankfully, work exactly as expected. However, it also seems subject to the unusual weight of Classic Sonic, so don’t expect to fly up gentle slopes with it.

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Regarding level design, this game is again leaving an unfinished impression. Stages are exceptionally short for any character ranging from less than a minute to 2.5 at most. Classic Sonic has the worst with very flat, blocky, almost rudimentary stage layouts. Modern Sonic has it better, with brief alternate paths, but a lot of straight lines with enemies in the way simply to continue boosting ahead. That feels mindless. The avatar has many alternate paths for Wisps to take, but again, it’s short.

Where a level has great aesthetics (Egg Gate) or ends just as it seems to start (Aqua Road) it is undoubtedly frustrating. The levels being short means as you get into the rhythm of a stage, it ends. Some levels could have honestly been condensed into bigger stages, but for some reason they weren’t, possible with the aim of spreading the characters out.

Additionally, level aesthetics are once again borrowed. The returning Green Hill and Chemical Plant, while pretty, leave little to be desired, and the returning Death Egg, while nice, is also predictably dull (With the exception again of Egg Gate). The new aesthetics such as the City, Metropolis, Mystic Jungle and the final zone range from very well conceived to pretty generic. This variety is again compounded by how short the stages are, so no one lasts long enough to leave any impression.

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Finally, we come to boss battles. This is also a mixed bag, with once again, reuse of ideas from past games (Or even this game towards the end!). Not battling Chaos or Shadow leaves a lot to be desired, as the battle with Zavok, while interesting, occurs early in the game, and the battle with Metal Sonic, and the Egg Dragoon, are both reused later in the game for different bosses.

Additionally, the two initial battles with Infinite are fantastic. Unique with nice mechanics based around his powers keeps you on your toes as you endeavour to counter attack. More of this would have been greatly appreciated.

None is especially difficult, however. A lack of lives in the game removes any real threat, though some can provide challenge by making your avatar wield less advantageous weapons for their battles.

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Also of note is the free Episode Shadow DLC. While cool to control our favourite black hedgehog once again, he does play exactly like Modern Sonic after all, his levels (All 3 of them) amount to little more than remixed existing stages. A nice touch is the ability to play as Shadow in Modern Sonic’s stages, so for Shadow fans, this is a win.

Plot wise though, it gives a little back story on Infinite in the run up to the main game. It’s the most consistent part of the story, at least, but again, entirely skippable if you don’t care.

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Sonic Forces is by no means a bad game. It’s sadly also not going to blow your socks off. It’s an uninteresting, safe romp, with a mix-match story and ideas, held together by 3 gameplay styles, that with more time and depth added (Or just longer levels, who knows) could have been pretty good. Sadly, that isn’t the case as the game feels unfinished, as though content was cut, with moments where quite clearly something has been removed.

Overall, if you are a Sonic fan, sure, pick it up. If you are looking for a 3D platformer, you could do worse, but you can also do better. Sonic Forces is ultimately a forgettable experience.

 

 

As always if you enjoyed this review give it a share, let me know what you think of the game, and I’ll see you all next time! Happy Gaming!

EA, Listen, Gamers Aren’t Thick!

The gift that keeps on giving aren’t they?

 

Update: As Noted by Andrew Reiner on Twitter, there’s some hallmarks of mobile free to start games here too:

https://twitter.com/Andrew_Reiner/status/930209923505557504

Update 2: EA removed in-app purchases temporarily after backlash from Disney, said they would return later, and most recently had the same criticisms levelled at Need for Speed: Payback and a new UFC title. To compound this, after saying “They didn’t want to offer cosmetics because it violates Star Wars canon” for Battlefront 2, they were reminded not only did they do that for the first game in 2015, but Battlefront 2 has cosmetics in the game data!

Plus, violates canon? We have a game, this very game in fact, where Yoda can battle Kylo Ren on a planet that has been blown up.

So brace yourselves, Reddit has a new record for most down-voted post ever. It’s EA’s Official PR guys too, on the Battlefront sub-Reddit. Oh boy!

The intent is to provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.
As for cost, we selected initial values based upon data from the Open Beta and other adjustments made to milestone rewards before launch. Among other things, we’re looking at average per-player credit earn rates on a daily basis, and we’ll be making constant adjustments to ensure that players have challenges that are compelling, rewarding, and of course attainable via gameplay.
We appreciate the candid feedback, and the passion the community has put forth around the current topics here on Reddit, our forums and across numerous social media outlets.
Our team will continue to make changes and monitor community feedback and update everyone as soon and as often as we can.

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EA said that!

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So for those not in the know, Star Wars Battlefront 2 (The second one with that name, yes it’s confusing) has loot boxes and in–app purchases which in a $60 game as we have already discussed is a bit much. Now, people did some number crunching, showing that for a character like Darth Vader, you need to play for 40 hours, or cough up.

Now, EA has revised this down by 75% so the total number of “Points” is far less. This is good. Granted…it’s not for us. It’s for the shareholders.

You know, without a shred of doubt, a shareholder sat and saw that backlash, and felt his vault empty. Sure, it’s 490,000 people (It’s insane and climbing) but to an investor, that’s 490k $60 sales that just said “I might not buy it”. And then add in the lost revenue from in=-app purchases? Yeah.

Now there is no guarantee this will happen, because after all, who can say how many people just hopped on the train. But to a shareholder, there is no greater fear than the potential of lost revenue.

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What’s more, that potential lost revenue is likely too great for them to sit back and worry. It’s now more valuable for them to cut the amount of micro transactions they’d have to sell, to instead maintain those $60 purchases. Just on the chance they lose sales.

Truthfully speaking, I expect the developers don’t even want this. They just want a game that’s good. But the money talks, and in this instance you can put some Monopoly bucks down on some tight-fisted gents breaking their fine china as their hands tense.

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What bothers me about EA’s statement though, ignoring the background economics of the matter, is that “A sense of accomplishment” isn’t going to be earned from 40 hours of grinding, while people pay up around you and beat you down online.

Frankly, this model, or at least these extremes, are parting the player base like Moses parted the Red Sea: A huge gulf with no bridge unless you build it yourself , or pay the piper. On one side, people who pay, and the other those who don’t.

This ultimately was “Dictated by the Open Beta” but if EA paid attention, the feedback to that was of trepidation and concern around potential pay 2 win shenanigans. With the track record of a company like EA, well deserved, and now, proven.

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What concerns me most is the phrase “Constant adjustments”. I don’t now what that implies…but it would seem like as they say, an effort to keep things attainable with engaging challenges. Now that to me, sounds like discounts of purchases, or rather, how many point you need.

Honestly, discounting the points needed for some time seems like a way to push purchases just a little more. Sell a lesser purchase to more people, making it attractive. This doesn’t sit well with me. That feels legitimately predatory, not to mention the upcoming (Announced before launch) discount to coincide with the upcoming Star Wars Episode 8.

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Ultimately, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, great, EA listened. On the other, I know it is only self-serving in the end, and their statement has the potential to open a whole other bag of worms. Honestly, this entire game is surrounded with negativity and questionable motives.

But at the end of the day, it’s got Star Wars on the box, and when discounted in the hype of a movie, what will the average Joe go and buy? This game.

The tactic is going to work in the end, this is just a move to soften a blow to shareholders and keep gamers on board. The money from the average consumer will be huge regardless, but nothing sells certainty to money-makers than a show of faith, especially when the cash has legs and vows to run away.

 

 

I had a little too much fun writing this one up. If you have some thoughts why not share or comment on social media with your friends, and I’ll see you next time! Happy Gaming!

BTG Update: Our Review Policy

So this is going to be an update while we finish Sonic Forces because yes, we still aren’t done: Thank the delays to the DLC distribution for EU players with physical copies on PS4 (I’m not joking).

 

Anyway, the first thing you’ll notice (Because no one reads the actual text, just scrolls down) is that we don’t give scores here. No matter the scale, there are too many games, and it doesn’t feel appropriate assigning numbers to qualitative views on a product. There would have to be constant rescoring as more games are added to prevent inconsistency over time. Plus, that 4 point scale has really killed the full range of numbers anyway!

 

Secondly, comparisons. Remember the joke “The Dark Souls of X”? Yeah, we wont do that. We review the thing you put money down for, including any free DLC (This is why Sonic Forces is taking so long). If there is a contemporary or game in the same franchise does something better, it’ll be a footnote at most: A direct comparison like that tells you, the reader, more about the other game than the thing actually being reviewed. If there is enough demand then we can include comparisons.

 

Third, we review games that have been 100% completed. This allows us to give a verdict on the entire experience, and the review will endeavour to cover every aspect of the game, including collectibles, barring spoilers for newer games. This gives us the full range of content to cover, and a complete look at the entire experience. This does mean some reviews will take a bit longer than other places, but in the name of being thorough, it’s what we prefer.

 

Finally, we wont consider marketing or hype, or promises, or expectations, when reviewing a game. That’s not part of the product you pay for. Fr our coverage of the hype behind a game, expectations on them, marketing etc., that is where our Behind The Game articles come in.

 

With that said, sorry that Sonic Forces is taking forever, it won’t be more than a few days now. Thanks for reading, give this a share, leave your thoughts below, and Happy Gaming!

The Problem of AAA Development: Money and Vultures

The news of EA buying Respawn Entertainment (May they rest in peace) has spurred a thought: Is AAA game development actually sustainable?

 

So EA closed Visceral in late 2017, suddenly but to the surprise of no one. As it happens this was just yet another in their hit list: Be it studios swallowed whole or internal studios biting the dust.

Now EA, not long after disbanding Visceral and their single player Star Wars project, has bought Respawn and the IP for Titanfall.

Titanfall 2 was actually surprisingly awesome, and it even made a little marketing push on having no DLC, no micro transactions, and just being a solid game you got the entirety of with one purchase.

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And EA, the publisher, put it right in between Call of Duty, and it’s OWN Battlefield 1, effectively cannibalizing its sales. We now also know with this acquisition that Titanfall 3 is a thing in the works. Taking bets as to how that will turn? Well let’s look back at Dead Space.

 

EA wanted Dead Space to be a multimedia thing. It didn’t happen, but the first two games sold really well. Dead Space 3 however, needed 5 million sales for a future, and had micro transactions and modes added that frankly had no place in a game like that: Sales tanked, Visceral got moved to Battlefield Hardline, that didn’t do too well, and now they are gone.

You can probably tell what Titanfall 3 will be like can’t you? Oh, and the developers get bonuses based on how well the games review. Money talks apparently.

 

Respawn is just yet another studio with talented staff, good IP and a drive to make good games snatched up by proverbial vultures. When, and it isn’t a case of “If”, Respawn is closed by EA, it will be for not meeting expectations. But what are those expectations?

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Let’s look at Activision’s Q4 2016 sales figures:

 

Activision Blizzard confirmed during their Q4 2016 Earnings Call that the entire company, across Activision and Blizzard titles, made over $3.6 billion just from in-game content sales. In-game content sales includes Call of Duty Points, Overwatch Loot Boxes, and more.

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Now let’s look at Take Two:

“We’ve said that we aim to have recurrent consumer spending opportunities for every title that we put out at this company. It may not always be an online model, it probably won’t always be a virtual currency model, but there will be some ability to engage in an ongoing basis with our titles after release across the board,” Zelnick said.

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EA themselves have quoted games as a service model as a key driver.

 

Let’s be honest though, is this shocking? No. Businesses exist to make money, but the more staff they have to hire, the more the consumer demands better graphics, the more capable the hardware for games becomes, and the longer games take to make, means bigger budgets, more wages, and ultimately, a need to sell more copies. Far, far more.

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Part of this is the “$60” price tag of games. One time purchase, that’s it. No more money for the publishers and developers. So what do they do? Find a way to increase monetization: A constant stream of revenue. Lootboxes, In-app purchases, DLC, it all goes straight to them. But it doesn’t stop at covering costs, it continues to making as much money as humanly possible, often with minimal effort and some very dodgy practices.

Take Call of Duty: WWII for instance. The game has lootboxes, with a twist. Others can see what you get, with the aim of seemingly spurring jealously.

According to redditor cuzseile, who uploaded the video, the supply drop exists in the game world but other players can’t steal it, which you’d expect. But cuzseile reports other players can see what you get from a supply drop

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The psychology of reward and feeling good is at full use here, akin to gambling, and of course, Activision also has that patent, where matchmaking can be based on pushing you via losses and other players into purchasing lootboxes.

Publishers have leapt to the furthest end of the spectrum in seeking additional monetization. Honestly, as many have noted, if the game was free it could easily sustain itself on in-app purchases just on player base. Any game could in theory. In practice though, its not just a case of making ends meet as they claim: Now it’s predatory, and now it is about milking as much as possible.

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Even smaller studios, to loop back to the start of the article, are in need of money. It is why studios are bought up: They need publishers, and a source of income. Why wouldn’t you take that opportunity if presented? But the publishers typically twist and gut the studio into their vision of maximised profits.

 

Personally, I would be fine with a $10 price increase on games. That could go a surprisingly long way to meeting costs and break even points. Sadly though, the big publishers have already tasted the blood in the water, and won’t settle for the more market friendly lesser revenue.

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AAA gaming is a vulture. Or maybe a parasite is more apt? Either way, it swallows creativity whole, and turns studios most people knew and loved of all sizes into factories, producing not games but products.

As an aside, during my time studying Games Design at university, this is the model we were taught: Not to produce games, but products. Plan ahead from the mere conception of a game to form ways of further monetizing, be it DLC, removing content to sell later, or in app purchases. This is something I heartedly disagree with. Yes, in-app purchases have a place, mostly in free games, but not in a title already paid for.

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The games industry is a ravenous beast, hungry for the taste of as much revenue as possible, and all the talent it can absorb to get that revenue. As consumers want more from games, studios need to fund that. They turn to publishers who want as much money as possible, then in a few years see more hardware come out, games look better, cost more to make, and the cycle continues.

 

The industry isn’t unsustainable, at least not yet. It needs change. Perhaps the biggest problem is that it is noticeably cannibalising itself, breaking down what talent it has and the bright futures and ideas of many, in the sake of the now, the money, the gain, and it isn’t looking to the future, where games are solely predatory and more expensive than ever, without any reason to be that way.

I’ve said it before, and I will probably say it forever: Minimal Effort, Maximum Profit.

 

As always if you enjoyed this article leave a comment with your thoguhts, share with your friends, and happy gaming!

 

 

Review: Sonic Mania

Title: Sonic Mania

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch

Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch

Developer: Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, Pagoda West

Publisher: SEGA

Copy Provided By: Bought it with my own money!

 

Sonic Mania is a fantastic game: A showing of true potential and design skills, held back from true greatness by technical and development choices.

 

Sonic Mania is a simple game. It asks nothing more than you enjoy 2D classic pixel Sonic with all its physics based platforming and speed. For a game attempting to relive and reinvigorate this branch of the franchise, it’s truly a great game.

The problem is it most certainly “Relives” a lot. But more on that later.

 

Whether you control Sonic, Tails, or Knuckles, it’s like jumping in to old games. All are fast, Sonic has a new Drop Dash for quick burst of speed and is a great way to keep flow going. Tails can fly, and even carry Sonic or Knuckles without a second player being present, and Knuckles can glide and has a slightly lower jump height, and can climb walls. It’s all as you knew it. You can even unlock the Super Peel-Out from Sonic CD or the Insta Shield from Sonic 3, but you can only use one of Sonic’s 3 abilities at a time.

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Before a patch however, there was an issue: To do any of them secondary abilities of any character, you had to press Jump in the air. This is also how you transform into your Super forms. In mid air, or if you need to glide with Knuckles as is often mandatory, prepare to fall to your death. A patch did recently fix this, and many other issues, by adding a dedicated separate button combination to transform.

The game sees you chase Dr Robotnik all through…time and space I guess (Sonic Forces complicates how much of this game is real by trying to explain a core element) as he and his newly upgraded Hard Boiled Heavies play a game of keep away with the Phantom Ruby: A mystical stone that can warp reality. This leads to the Heavies being upgraded and Robotnik gaining control of Little Planet again, from Sonic CD.

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The Ruby is also how you get from zone to zone…though…not all zones have transitions between them. Some simply fade to black and you are back on a zone that was seen on Angel Island…after just being in a zone that’s on Little Planet. The inconsistency with continuity is jarring especially as the game, seemingly at random, decides whether or not to fade to black: As if they couldn’t explain the zones being in the game half the time.

With the zones themselves though, they all maintain the high speed, many different routes to take, goodies sprinkled all over approach that past 2D Sonic games also did. Find a giant ring in a zone and go to one of the Special Stages, and win a Chaos Emerald. These are fun little chase sequences and a fresh idea: Collect rings to extend your timer, and spheres to go faster and catch the UFO, though by the time you reach the final one the truth is you’ll find them rather easy.

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If you have 25 Rings and hit a checkpoint though, prepare to play one of over 30 Blue Sphere mini-games, returning from Sonic 3. These are far too long to be mere checkpoint mini-games that you’ll have the chance of doing multiple times per act, and frankly they are a bit boring. But they are they, if you want to flesh out that Extras Menu with goodies.

Back to the zones though, while the level design itself is top notch, the bosses can range from great call backs with new twists, great new ideas, or sadly, straight up repeated ideas. Part way through the game the bosses seem to start reusing a lot of past game ideas, without sprinkling in anything new. It’s as though the bosses range from great to seen it before. It’s a little disappointing, especially with how long some of them can potentially take.

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The zones themselves though, are actually my main point of contention for this game. The phrase “Missed Potential” will be used a lot on this site I feel, but here it goes. 4 of the 12 zones are totally new ideas and environments we have never seen in past games. 8 are stages returning from Sonic 1, 2, 3 and CD. After seeing the sheer brilliance of the 4 new stages and how unique and fun they are, it’s such a shame to see the game fall back on old ideas.  One or two old zones would have been fine, but this is a majority, and it does bog down the experience. The game very much does “Relive” the past.

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Visually the game is fantastic. Bright and colourful, wonderfully smooth and detailed, this is what a great 2D sprite based Sonic game can look like. Audibly as well, the game has a fantastic jazzy feel throughout, and it does scream Classic era Sonic. I couldn’t fault that aspect of the game at all.

Sadly though, the game even after patching is prone to some rather funny glitches and softlocks, though most have been removed at the time of this review, some persist. Some scripted events also fail to play out, and has happened a few times over a good 50 hours of play time.

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To be fair, this game is still an absolute blast to play, except when the occasional glitch rears it’s head. The gameplay is fun and very re-playable, even if the bosses are at times drawn out or unimaginative, and the zones, while screaming of missed potential, are still a treat to play. I can highly recommend this game to anyone interested: Just don’t expect the Sonic 4 you always wanted. It’s close, but it’s not nearly new enough.

If you are getting this game, I do highly recommend the Switch version. From what is seen it only missed Trophy/Achievement support, and the game looks just as good undocked as it does docked – I personally can’t imagine playing it any other way, though any version is fantastic – It’s all the same game after all!

 

As always, if you liked this review or have your own opinions, leave a comment down below about Sonic Mania – And share this with your friends and on social media – and as always: Happy Gaming!

Capcom, We Need To Talk…

Capcom has a bit of an odd relationship with the industry but recently they are not only banking big on one single release, but watching others flop and ignoring key markets…

 

So Capcom. Sometimes I do wonder if you don’t like money. I mean, Marvel Vs Capcom Infinite would have been a great deal and a big success if it was properly funded…

 

Street Fighter V could have been big if it was a finished game with balanced methods of unlocking content.

And what is this excuse regarding Nintendo Switch support?

According to a spokesperson for the company, it noted that it’s general procedure for third-party software developers to make re-releases for a new console within the first year of launch, mainly because there’s just not enough time to work on new titles within the timeframe.

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Come on Capcom. Every has seen your early support for other systems. We know that’s BS.

Why not localise Monster Hunter XX? In your recent earnings report you listed it as a reason you did so well, along with Ultra Street Fighter 2! Oh, is it because of Monster Hunter World? Don’t worry, I’ll get to that.

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A collection of Mega Man games came out on PS4, PC, Xbox One, and later, 3DS. The 3DS version sold the most units. Where is the second Collection at, Capcom? If not on 3DS then why not Switch? In fact data was found pointing to the 3DS version existing.

A dataminer named Greigamaster recently found some code that indicates a multiplayer battle mode for a supposed 3DS version. Additionally, code was found referring to saves and replays for an SD card, and the 3DS has its own directory file, too. As the source article points out, this either means that the game is coming to 3DS, was initially coming to 3DS before getting canned, or it’s completely unrelated to the collection at all and is just simply code belonging to another project by the same team.

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What? Okami HD (Again.)? That did pretty well back on Wii. Why not make a Switch port? Easy money again right?

 

Capcom, I know for whatever reason, you don’t want to make money. I know that taking a game to it’s biggest market is alien to you. But come on. Someone there has to see the writing on the wall. There are markets, not even just Nintendo, that would do wonders for some of your games, and others that wouldn’t. And yet you do the opposite of the logical thing.

 

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Now let’s talk about Monster Hunter World.

You want your game to reach a global audience right? Increased revenue. Okay, fair enough.

This game will obviously cost far more to produce than the 3DS entries. It will need to sell far more to make back that investment. But part of me thinks this is a very dangerous move. Sure it could boost the popularity of the franchise internationally….but that will be at a cost.

The game is coming to PS4, Xbox One and PC. But only on PS4 in Japan. 5 million potential sales right there, in the biggest market for the game. Compared to the 20+ million for 3DS, but of a fall. We know Nintendo Switch is eating away at that too, already past 2 million units, but that’s neither here nor there.

But Japan isn’t really into stationary consoles. They want portable experiences, it’s part of their culture and lifestyle. You’re potentially alienating the domestic market, and largest market, for a franchise you just invested more than ever into.

And let’s not get started on the Western situation. The series hit untold highs in the West on 3DS, and it is well documented the series sells best on portables, even back in the days of PSP/PS2. Is there any guarantee that the Western console markets will pick this up and that fans will migrate from 3DS/Switch where the fanbase grew?

No. Not at all.

This is a huge risk Capcom, I hope you understand that. Taking the game from it’s proven largest domestic market, and it’s largest Western market, spending far more money to do so therefore demanding more sales…all in the hope of a bigger audience.

I hope you appreciate how insane that sounds.

 

Look, if it works it works. But for a company so averse to doing the logical thing and making more money than they would otherwise, this feels like a huge risk, and if it fails…well you better start rethinking your strategy at long last. I don’t think this can go the way of Street Fighter V.

Controllers: Why They Matter, And How I Learned To Love Overwatch

Controls are the most important aspect of how you interface with a game. They come in all shapes and sizes but sometimes they aren’t ideal for the player.

 

Sometimes controls can be weird. Or fun. Or intuitive. Sometimes they can be downright bad.

Now for reference when talking about “Controls” in this context I am referring strictly to the device in your hands that you use to move the player controlled object and interface with the game, not the actual movement of a character, as that’s an entirely different discussion.

So why do controls matter? Well it’s simple. If the way you are playing the game isn’t comfortable, then…well you won’t have as much fun, obviously. This is down to a few things, namely preference, necessity, and layout.

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For instance with controller layouts, there are some that just end up with your hand like a pretzel, the immediate thought being Terraria on PS3. That is definitely a doable experience but is in no way optimal, given the game and it’s design is based around a keyboard layout.

For preference, let’s take aiming in a FPS or Third-Person Shooter. Using an analog stick for this, while doable, is miles from using a mouse or gyroscopic aiming. For note, in Splatoon I use gyro controls for aiming with the analog stick being reserved solely for minor movements on the x axis. Attempting to play something like DOOM (2016) on PS4, while certainly doable, feels slow and clunkier compared to a mouse or gyro. Most likely this is an issue with precision and how fast a mouse/your arm can move compared to an analog stick. Sure, sensitivity adjustment helps, but on an analog stick you lose the ability to stop precisely. You’ll aim in a direction pretty quickly, but stopping where you want is a hassle.

 

Another famous anecdote from across the web is that keyboard and mouse is “Superior”. Now, this is true: But it depends on the game. I can wholeheartedly say playing a 3D platformer with a keyboard is the definition of a nightmare, and actually crosses with something I’ll bring up on a personal level later. But something like ARMA III, you won’t play that in any way other than a keyboard, out of necessity.

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And now we come to the personal anecdote, and I realise that most likely no one else will ever play this game in this way, but it works for me.

 

So I was gifted Overwatch on PC by a friend and after many months of just…well never booting it really, I finally gave it an honest go, keyboard and mouse. And I hated it. The main complaint I had is both personal and one I have stemming from consoles.

So my personal complaint is that keyboard and mouse is just uncomfortable for me. My right hand has injuries that make prolonged mouse use not fun and my left hand doesn’t mesh well to a keyboard for jumping between inputs on a moments notice given the sheer volume of keys.

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The issue stemming from console gaming is actually that of the D-pad. See, WASD at the end of the day on most keyboards is basically a D-pad. The keys are digital, meaning they are either on or off. There are no precise movements like those gained with an analog stick (And Overwatch does in fact have this built in, just you can’t do it with most keyboards), and another huge problem is that Overwatch is a game in a 3D Space, that is based heavily around movement.

Now for the life of me, no matter what it is, I can’t stand the imprecision of digital movement in a 3D space. 2D is more bearable, but in 3D there is more precise movements to be made, due to the nature of the space. Further to that, using WASD is effectively using a D-pad (Only not in an exact + formation, which I admit is fun for muscle memory in 2D games!). You have what is ultimately 8 directions of movement, via 4 digital buttons. It’s a D-Pad in principle. And in Overwatch, as I started to play it, I found not only was I mis-clicking, but also suffering from awkward movement, and my hands were aching. This was a truly miserable experience.

So, with some Discord game development friends they suggested I try a controller. Now that would mean I have to aim with a stick, but we gave it a shot. Now I don’t own an Xbox branded controller anymore (Because of my hand issues that right analog stick is discomfort incarnate) so we went to my next best thing – My default PC controller: The Switch Pro Controller.

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And It’s not supported by Overwatch (Figures, it’s a DInput controller not XInput) but we whipped out some keybinding software, and have it an honest go. Movement with an analog stick, despite still being digital at the end of the day, felt better due to how the analog moves compared to, again, 4 buttons in a 3D Space. So my movement grievances were solved! But then came the aiming.

Never map a mouse to an analog stick. Just don’t. That’s a sensitivity mess that just doesn’t work, as you map the free movement of mouse to a more limited stick.

So we ended up (And props to Nintendo for making Joy-Con individual controllers) a controller setup now dubbed “Controller and Mouse”. And my God, does it work.

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So on the Joy-Con I mapped Jump to ZL, Ability 1 and 2 to ZR and Up, Ultimate to a click of the Stick, and reload to SL where my finger rests. On the mouse is just Fire and Ability 3/Alt Fire where applicable. This obviously requires reconfiguring based on which hero I use, but man. The free aim of the mouse and movement of the Joy-Con has opened this game up to me.

Is this ideal? Probably not. I’m sure Blizzard wants me using keyboard and mouse but again, if you aren’t comfortable in playing the game, you want to stop playing. I was determined to give Overwatch a go, and I did, and I really enjoy it. I don’t love it, but it’s fun.

And across the internet you can find people using special controllers, really kickass fighting game players who are blind, some who swear by fight sticks, and hell, you can even find Super Smash Bros. Melee players who use the Gamecube controller…upside down! That controller is still supported in the series to this day.

 

Controls are a huge factor of a game: The single most important if you ask me. If the game is unintuitive or uncomfortable to play, people will seek a work around where possible.

 

What do our readers think? Leave a comment down below with any games you had hard times controlling, or crazy control schemes you’ve seen, and as always, share the article and happy gaming! 🙂

Behind The Game: Splatoon 2

In this edition of Behind The Game we look at the sequel that many say isn’t a sequel to one of the surprise hits of the past few years: Splatoon 2!

Marketing

Revealed January 12th at the Nintendo Switch Event in Japan, showcasing the game, new hub area and characters. Response was positive, with lingering suspicion that it wasn’t unique enough or much of an upgrade over the original from 2015.

Playable at Nintendo Switch events worldwide leading up to the launch of the console, where feedback was positive, ringing along the lines of “It’s definitely Splatoon”, albeit most focus was on the hardware.

Late March brought the Splatoon 2 Global Testfire, following the trend from the original in creating a stress test in the guise of a playable demo for a weekend. This led to feedback directly from a wider range of fans on weapons and presented a limited taste of the game. This was later followed immediately before launch with a Splatfest World Premiere demo, acting as another stress test and highlighting the unique community battles aspect of the franchise, immediately before launch.

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The game was also highlighted in Nintendo Directs, first as a follow-up to a more general game showcase that focused heavily on ARMS, a new IP, and Splatoon 2, which was pushed as a duet of main events, highlighting the pulling power of the franchise.

There was later a full ARMS direct with a Splatoon 2 Story Mode teaser at the end, once again highlighting the two being marketed in tandem, and the promise of the game being used to push a new product.

Finally, a full Splatoon 2 direct aired showing the new hosts, story mode, weapons, update plans, Splatfest plans, and laying out the roadmap and what to expect over two years with the game, as well as new modes and features. This followed on from a large E3 showing highlighting the changes and promise of Splatoon 2 as a competitive spectator sport, with a live tournament of some of the best Squid Squads from around the globe.

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Right up to and after launch, consistent TV spots were played worldwide, highlighting the game to the general consumer, along with other multiplayer titles for the summer.

 

Critical Response

Critically Splatoon 2 fared well. Most loved the game, albeit the lingering feeling of not being fresh enough stayed, both visually and in terms of gameplay, as well as some nagging aspects that could have been better. This general response is an interesting change on the original which said there wasn’t enough content at launch, but the game was a shock the genre needed, and felt addictive to play, holding enough quick-fire gameplay in its matches to warrant returning again and again.

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With the content roadmap clearly laid out, critically the game had less focus on amount of content overall, but how much was new, however, in very few cases did that seem to detract from the game being fun, and a general air of don’t fix what isn’t broken surrounds the game.

 

Fan Response

In the eyes of fans, Splatoon 2 faced much of the same backlash. Visually similar, with the differences early on being visible only side by side. The feeling that it wasn’t worthy of being a sequel lingered right until launch, when new information was pumped out, showing the freshness of this new title in the now series.

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Post-launch the feeling changed, and the game is generally loved, though some fans of the original who played considerable amounts of the game, seem to feel a bit of burn out. Criticism is still levelled at how the game handles aspects like matchmaking and stages, and a lack of wholly original content, but the experience has been received as fun and again, just like with critics, an air of don’t fix what isn’t broken.

 

Sales

Despite being on a system only a few months old at the time of launch, compared to its predecessor, with less total users to possible sell to on launch, Splatoon 2 trounced the original game sales in both the UK and Japan. This shocked many detractors who, like with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, believed that being so soon after the original, who would buy it? This again stems from the “Undeserving sequel” stance many took with the game, however, just like with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, is already on its way to best its predecessor commercially, with over 3.6 million copies by the end of September 2017.

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Future

As an evergreen title, with a content roadmap of 2 years and long life ahead of that for general play, as well as a blossoming competitive scene, Splatoon 2 is one of the shocks of the decade, from a new IP in a genre Nintendo never touched, to a hit on Wii U (Even with its low sales), to a sequel that is already on track to best it’s predecessor and live a long life on Switch. The future of the brand is clear, though the confidence in Splatoon 2 from its reveal, mirrors the found confidence after the reveal of the original, an idea that is fun, and works well, that proves the series can grow and reach even more people within the genre, and the inevitable Splatoon 3 will be a hit on Switch or whatever is next, as the franchise cements itself as both a system seller and crowd pleaser.

 

 

As always if you enjoyed this article be sure to leave some comments below letting us know what you think of Splatoon 2 as a package, and share this article with all your friends! Until next time!

Behind The Game: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

As a fun concept, I thought we could take the lead-up to, and release of, a game and see how it shaped up commercially, critically, and with the fans! 

First up: Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle from Ubisoft!

 

Marketing

Mario + Rabbids has had a very turbulent run up through its development. Initially leaked simply as a Mario and Rabbids crossover, it drew ire immediately, only compounded by later details like being an RPG, then a strategy RPG. The developers later revealed that this reduced moral, as the incredible pushback against the game, which they believed and cared for visibly post-reveal, was a demoralising worry to many staffers.

Compounding this was promo art and even internal slides revealing the schedule for the game, with a 3-month marketing turn around. What began to many as someone seemingly joking, became very real, and almost unanimously the concept of the Rabbids was a boiling point of contention, let alone working with Mario in an RPG.

Roll around E3, and the game is the opening act for Ubisoft. Shigeru Miyamoto rocks up on stage and the enthusiasm from the crowd, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, and those watching sparked a change. They showed lead developer Davide Soliani in the crowd, in tears at the immediate reaction to the enthusiasm around his creation, and then came the trailer. At that moment the charm, the humour, even (mostly) the fear of the Rabbids evaporated. Those opening 15 minutes of Ubisoft at E3 showed the commitment and passion into the game and the drive to do it right. Then the game was shown off alongside Nintendo, and press previews began pouring in, and the tune changed entirely.

While previous stigma against the Rabbids will likely never disperse, the gentle trickle of information, constant display of charm and humour, and numerous instances of the dev team explaining how, and why this game exists, what it means to them and what they want to achieve, relieved and resonated with the audience.

 

Critical Response

Critical response has been promising, with numerous previews from E3 and other events praising the depth and challenge of the game, including the simple yet deep combat and skill tree. Also of note is the fascination with characterisation and visuals, noting how it feels like a Mario game gone wrong, matching the invasion of the Rabbids.

The game has struck a chord with critics for opening a genre such as strategy RPGs to new fans in an accessible and fun way, with the game’s humour sticking with many critics noting how crazy the game is, but how well it all sticks together, cementing the pre-reveal concern based on limited information as a needless concern.

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Upon release, the game scored exceptionally high reviews, especially given trepidation pre-release. Praise was aimed at the visuals and depth of gameplay, as well as surprising amount of content. Praise was also piled onto characterisation, an aspect many felt was weak in the Mario series of late, and of note, the Rabbids being reduced from the hated screaming punch lines in search of a joke, to actual personalities, often riffing on the Mario series counterpart.

 

Fan Response

Initial response to leaks was ire, chiefly for pairing Mario with the much maligned Rabbids, seen as flat comedy shoe ins. This persisted even as details trickled out, until E3, when along with critical reception, the opinion switched (ha) completely, minus, again, some disdain to Rabbids. High points include visuals, the effort and complex but simple gameplay, and many likened it to a beginners XCOM.

Some internet dwellers have been caught saying they will pick up the game even though they hate the Rabbids, showing that a book by its cover is one thing, but another is to see the contents, as many were put off just by the premise.

General community response is one of enthusiasm, for a project that was originally considered a hoax, this is perhaps the most promising aspect of the user response. For the developers especially, the relief must be extraordinary, as the community turns to the game as a tent pole release in both a unique genre but in concept and execution.

 

Upon release the game was still held in contempt by some who refused to see the Rabbids beyond their Wii era screaming, which is typical of any release with any existing character, as nothing is without detractors, but the buzz has been great, and of amusement, fun, and shock at the overall quality of the product, and how competent it stands for both strategy fans and now as a unique Mario RPG alongside existing series within the franchise such as Paper Mario.

Sales

This is already the fastest selling, and best-selling, non-Nintendo published title on the Nintendo Switch. And the word of mouth has been astounding. Certainly the genre isn’t for everyone, but sales have shown a strong appetite not just for a new Mario adventure, but a unique take on a tried and true genre. The rewards are being reaped for all the effort poured into this gem. This is a game that will easily sell later in life for the system both as a game on its own, and because of what it offers.

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The Future

The future is certainly bright for both Ubisoft and Nintendo, if nothing for strengthening the relationship between the two companies and the possibility of future franchise crossovers from both sides. As for Mario + Rabbids specifically, it has been new wind for the Rabbids as more detailed characters, and a new successful spinoff for Mario, entering the tactical genre.

The two major possibilities are more crossovers, perhaps letting Ubisoft take command with some of their specialised genres with Nintendo characters, or Nintendo doing the same in reverse. Certainly though, one can expect a sequel to Mario + Rabbids, when all the additional content into 2018 is said and done.

 

Frankly, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is fantastic. An idea so crazy that it was reviled on sight until the passion seeped out onto a stage and the world just stopped and stared: It not only legitimizes Nintendo’s trust in Ubisoft, and their talent to make incredible games, but also the old saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. This is a very meaty book.

As always, if you like what you read, leave a comment, share this article, and see you next time!