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?!
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?!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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?!
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?
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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
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.
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”.
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.
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.