Because you can play Skyrim on everything from a PC to a toaster.
This is a bit rambly, but I’ve been thinking about it recently. So, having spent a couple of months with my Nintendo Switch, I discovered just how much I want portable versions of games I already love. Darkest Dungeon on the go already makes me happy, and it’s perfectly build for touch screen gaming (although the standard controls have taken a bit of getting used to). Being able to take the Jackbox games on holiday sounds good, but god help me if Blizzard ever put Diablo 3 on the Switch. It got me thinking about how often I double dip on buying games though.
With the Switch, it makes a certain amount of sense to buy a game I already have. Being able to play Rocket League on the go is a pretty cool feature that isn’t really included in other versions of the game, but I haven’t bought it yet. This is because I already own it three times (admittedly one of them was free) and purchasing it a fouth time seems somewhat excessive. Yes, I draw the line at quadruple dipping.
This makes me question how many times I’ve bought a game when I already own it. I’ve bought Mario 3 at least twice, Tetris more times than I care to admit, and you could find Bioshock in more than a couple of my collections. Is this excessive? A waste? It’s not like I buy them and don’t play them, but is it wasteful to get Bioshock on PC when I could just reconnect my Xbox 360 to play it? Perhaps I’m paying for the convenience.
Is double dipping something that a lot of gamers do? Are you “guilty” (although that’s probably not a good choice of words) of this and would you consider it wasteful? Other than Switch purchases for the sake of portability I’ll likely think more carefully before purchasing a game I already own elswhere. If nothing else, I need to start saving money for some of that sweet Nintendo cardboard…
I used to play a lot of multiplayer when I was younger. I enjoyed playing Quake and its sequels, plenty of the X-Wing games, and even some Warcraft 3 and its friends. In recent years though, the amount of time I’ve spent competing with others online has dropped significantly. And it’s not just to do with that “time” thing that everyone seems to like so much.
It’s because I don’t trust online gaming anymore.
So those loot box things have been in the gaming news a lot this past year. From manipulating children through gambling websites to psychologically messing with people to convince them to part with their cash, loot boxes have become quite the whipping boy in the industry. And it’s not without good cause. They have gradually ramped up from the marginally irritating cosmetics to flat out selling power to players. DLC is small potatoes by comparison.
Just to put this out there: I don’t like cosmetic loot boxes (items that don’t effect the gameplay but make your character look cool) as it creates a divide between “haves” and “have-nots” in gaming, but I understand that they are not an issue in terms of gameplay. I also don’t fully object to them in Free-to-Play games. But I downright despise loot crates that provide more powerful items to players that open their wallets when they have already fully purchased the game.
This came to a head recently with the discovery of Activision’s loot crate matchmaking algorithm. This insidious system (that allegedly hasn’t been implemented yet) matches newer players with veteran ones, with the expectation that they will get destroyed by the experienced players. The new player may well spot the better player using a certain type of gun and associate their opponents success to using that weapon and feel as though they should open some crates to get this gun. Once they acquire it, matchmaking will match them with weaker players who they will dominate “thanks to their new weapon”.
This is a psychologically manipulative system, designed to trick players into thinking they are better or worse than they actually are to encourage them to part with more cash for a chance to get a better item. There’s not even the guarantee they’ll get the item they want.
Pardon my language, but fuck that system. How can I trust a matchmaking system that may well be trying to trick me into spending money? I know that multiplayer games have horrible people on sometimes, but I can ignore that to an extent. What I can’t ignore is that I may not be having a genuine experience online. I may be having an experience tailored to how much money I have or haven’t spent on the game already.
So I’m going to be avoiding a lot of multiplayer games that have a loot box component. I’m going to be avoiding single player games that do the same (how can I trust that the game isn’t artificially lengthened or “grindy”?) for the foreseeable future too. I don’t want to be party to a system that is trying to trick me into parting with more of my money.
Unless they’ve tricked me into thinking that. Are these my thoughts? Fetch me a tin foil hat someone.
To the left. To the left. Quarter-circle forward and punch!
No, it’s not some crazy new move that all the kids are down with (I’m so cool) these days. Mind you, anything would be better than “dabbing” at this point. No, it’s fusing two disparate games together into something new and exciting! With the seeming success of Mario + Rabbids fusing Mario, Rabbids and XCOM together, it got me thinking about what other games could be combined into something amazing. Here are a few that crossed my mind. Expect them to be terrible.
Left 4 Dead + Warcraft 3 = Left 4 War
So I think this sort of thing probably exists already, but if it doesn’t it could be fun I suppose. This would basically be a hero focused RTS zombie survival game, probably best played on PC using a mouse. You and your AI or player controlled allies fight your way through the zombie horde, collecting weapons and items as you go. Each character would have their own special abilities, and the games would culminate in the same way as Left 4 Dead, with a grand set piece to escape the zombie menace. Throw in some Warcraft characters for good measure and I reckon you’ve got some potential there.
Street Fighter + Magic: The Gathering = Street Magic!
Prepare for a horrible microtransaction filled monstrosity. Picture Street Fighter, with all its fireballs and ultra combos in tact, but with collectible card game mechanics! Imagine having your character, but with special moves locked behind cards that can level up. Ryu doesn’t have his dragon punch until you’ve found the card and Guile can’t throw a sonic boom until you’ve unlocked it. Of course you’ll be able to spend real money to buy new card packs to unlock these attacks. Perhaps you could create your own character to take online to challenge players who have spent all that money to get the best character possible. I’m pretty certain this is something Capcom would actually consider, and that scares me slightly.
Overwatch + Pokémon = Pokéwatch!
Ok, I actually kind of like this one. A first/third person multiplayer game in which you choose which Pokémon to play as and have access to its associated abilities. Now here’s the thing, in the loot boxes would be passes to go out into the wild and catch new Pokémon to add to your roster. Think of the potential for team compositions! It would be nearly impossible to balance but the possibility for objective based games with huge variation in team setups sounds pretty great to me.
Forza + Dance Dance Revolution = Forza Motorsport Revolution
Look, just hear me out on this one. I’m thinking one for in the arcades, in which you have a dance platform to throw your feet around in time to the music. The better you do, the faster your car goes. In front of you though is a steering wheel for controlling the ever accelerating vehicle. Obviously things like braking would be accounted for in some way but this sounds like it could be insanely silly fun. Or a recipe for severe injury.
Bayonetta + Metal Gear Solid = Metal Gear Rising
Because sometimes the planets align and something magical happens. Lunatic story? Check! Lunatic action? Check! A cyborg ninja fighting giant stompy robots with a sword before taking on a cybernetically enhanced senator? Where do I sign?!
How about you? Are there any games that you could slam together into something terribly fantastic or fantastically terrible? I like to think the gaming community has more imagination that most publishers these days so there must be something out there! Tell me, I could use a good laugh!
Throw enough crap at the wall and see what sticks.
I went to a teacher conference this week, during my time off which is just lovely. Anyway, I decided that it might be good to have a game on my phone to dip in and out of when I had a few spare minutes between (during?) lectures and such. So off I popped to the App Store to see what I could find. What I found prompted this response:
So let’s talk about Steam a little. Since Steam Greenlight and Early Access, the store has turned into an absolute (pardon my language) shit-show. Every day there are more and more terrible games released onto the storefront due to shady practices. Since Greenlight has closed down things will hopefully improve, but the number of poor games, asset flips, and shameless trading card cash grabs hasn’t abated. I don’t see Steam Direct changing this any time soon.
Valve have tried to change this but I suspect they are making way too much money to want to make significant improvements. The Playstation Store has recently shown a similar situation with games like Life of Black Tiger and that stupid trophy hunter game being released so clearly other major companies want in on the gravy train.
I recently switched back to iPhone after having a while using Windows Phones for a while and I expected the iPhone App Store to still contain a pretty high standard of apps. How wrong I was. I went looking for a dice based game (something I could drop into here and there) and came across all manner of unrelated things. There were heaps of games with no reviews, games that had terrible or non-existent descriptions, and game after game of freemium nonsense.
The store is in serious need of curation and management. Quality over quantity and all that. I would sooner buy a good game that I can manage to find rather than a crap game that happens to appear in a list. I suspect the answer to this question is “Money”, but why do storefronts insist on opening the floodgates to anyone who can put together any old piece of crap and slap a £0.99 price tag on it.
In the end, I didn’t buy anything and downloaded Carcasonne to play again, a game I purchased a few years back. You know, back when it was easy to find quality games and not have to sift through the tripe? The fact that the App Store has turned into a mess of rubbish games has put me off bothering to look for anything to purchase. I’m more likely to listen to a podcast to find out something worth buying than take a risk on one of the hundreds of potentially poor releases. I suspect I’m not the only one. To digital storefront owners: stop opening the floodgates to any old “developer”. Hire a team to curate your store and make it something worth visiting rather than a dodgy market full of rubbish that people won’t want to visit. It’s hard to sell to customers when they don’t want to come to your store.
A little while back I talked about how using a guide for a game isn’t such a bad thing. You don’t always have the time to “git gud”, so why not use the resources that are freely available online to help you? I’ve also recently mentioned that gaming is the only form of entertainment that actively prevents you from accessing more unless you prove you are deserving of it. There are exceptions of course, with walking simulators allowing pretty much everyone to access the full story regardless of ability level. Then we have the likes of Star Fox Zero…
Now, I haven’t played Star Fox Zero. Hell, I didn’t even have a Wii U to play it on. But I am very aware that a lot of people didn’t like it due to it having a poor control scheme. I’m also aware that a lot of people didn’t like it because it included an invulnerable mode, that made it near impossible for you to fail. It seems that a lot of gamers weren’t happy that some people would be able to experience the game’s story without the struggle that comes along with it. This isn’t the only game to do this, in fact a number of recent Mario games have had a similar option in which repeated failure allows you to play through a level whilst invulnerable. I have seen comments that dislike this feature too.
But why? Why does it matter if people who find the game challenging have a way of engaging with content later on? There seems to be this idea that games’ endings, regardless of their supposed target audience, should only be accessed by gamers who have earned it. To them, I ask this question: Did you earn the right to see the end of that movie you watched? Could you skip past the scenes that you didn’t like? How about that book you read or listened to? How is gaming such a specialist form of media that you can’t enjoy the story unless you earn it?
Games tell some genuinely fascinating stories and I don’t see why those stories shouldn’t be enjoyed by everyone. Anyone can enjoy Firewatch, why can’t everyone enjoy Mass Effect? I’m not for a second saying that difficulty should be removed from all games, by all means keep Dark Souls difficult, but why couldn’t their be a “casual” mode that removes some of the challenge so a less skilled player can enjoy the world? Most players would go for the challenge, but some would appreciate a way to explore the world without being brutally struck down at every turn.
A great example of this is in Furi. This is designed to be a very challenging boss rush game (with a cracking soundtrack I might add) in which you will be defeated over and over. But if you want to experience the story, then you can select the “Promenade” difficulty, in which the bosses practically lie down for you. Trophies/achievements won’t unlock in this mode, but you can still discover the plot at a leisurely pace. If a game that is designed with difficulty in mind can do this, then why can’t others?
“Hardcore” gamers! You can finish your games on the hardest difficulty you like, and well done to you for doing so! Seriously, beating some of these games on their hardest setting is a huge challenge and overcoming that is one hell of an achievement. But don’t lock others out of this hobby due to some elitist nonsense. Embrace the weak players! Discuss the plot with them! Tell them about how crazy the game can get! Maybe they’ll grow to be interested in the challenge side of the hobby. The great thing about this is that it would actually increase the diversity in games that are released. Many mock the number of similar games that are released these days, but is that perhaps because some of these games are so accessible? Would their be more Souls like games if there was a way for more people to enjoy them, thus opening up to a greater number of potential customers?
Down with elitism in gaming! Up with accessibility options! Would letting everyone play be such a bad thing really?
Who here has heard of Philosopher’s Quest (or Brand X as it’s sometimes known) on the BBC Micro? It’s a 1979 text adventure and it’s apparently hard as hell. It’s from an era in which some games came with a little “hints and tips” booklet that you could open to give you some guidance (The Legend of Zelda came with one if I recall correctly), but only if you broke the seal on it, admitting that you weren’t good enough to even get through the early areas. My dad had a copy of it that he allowed my sister and I to play, and being about 6 and 4 years old we had no idea about what to do or what was going on and thus died repeatedly. I asked about the tips booklet I saw in the box, still sealed, and was told that we were never allowed to open it as the game should be beaten without any help. I’m sure the game is still in the house somewhere, unbeaten and with its still sealed tips booklet. Bet it’s worth some money now. That’s the cover of it in the featured image. Can I just point out how amazing it is? I mean, it looks like The Blue Man Group picked up the wrong pot of Dulux and decided to attack Moses.
I recalled this memory not so long ago, and thought about how the idea of guides in gaming has changed in the years since then. Back then, using a guide was admitting failure and would often come with a financial penalty in the form of purchasing a guide, or a magazine, or (heaven forbid) phoning one of those damn premium rate phone lines. Nowadays though, guides are pretty much freely available, through professional (or sometimes not so) websites, wikis, YouTube videos and probably other sources that I just haven’t thought of.. And yet I still find myself with that stigma of “I’ve given up” if I look at a guide. I haven’t beaten the challenge myself. I didn’t beat that boss with my own skill and ingenuity. That puzzle beat me!
But then…aren’t games supposed to be fun? Yes, they’re a challenge, but a challenge to enjoy surely. And when a fun activity ceases to be enjoyable, why carry on with it? To be the best in the world? An admirable goal, but not one that most of us play games for. To prove that I can? But to prove to who? The developer? Random people on the internet? When it comes down to it, I enjoy playing the games I have, but when an obstacle within those games stops it being fun and descends into frustration then the game has almost failed in its own purpose. In the past, it would have been a case of give up on it, or beat my head against the brick wall of frustration in the hopes the game becomes fun again later on.
No more though. I’m a grown up now (seriously, I’m allowed to drive cars and everything) with limited time and limited patience. If I want to look up a guide for beating Ornstein and Smough then I damn well will. If I need help on the best way to play Symmetra then that’s alright. And god help anyone who says that finding a walk-through for one of those point and click adventure games with the moon logic nonsense is wrong.
The great Dara O’Briain gets it.
When it comes down to it, it’s your product that you’ve purchased, and the player can play it how they wish. This is even more true with single player games where the progress you make is your business. Hell, why aren’t players allowed to cheat in single player experiences anymore? Even if the challenge is part of the game, should people be excluded from the experience and story because they aren’t MLG-Pro enough? In the end, enjoy your game, and if there’s a barrier preventing you from continuing that enjoyment, find a way around it or find some guidance wherever you wish. And if it’s still no fun, don’t be ashamed to call it a day and give it up. Life’s too short for smashing your head against a brick wall.
Not so long ago, I did the very British thing and complained about some things. Modern gaming is pretty rubbish to be fair. There’s plenty wrong with the industry, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few positives we can focus in on! So here we are, a few things about this hobby that I’m actually happy about!
I also want to see whether this post or the negative one gets more views! Do you folks prefer positive or negative words? Will you be more interested in what’s good about the industry or what’s bad? I’m interested in the results! Anyway, on with the words!
Alright, so Early Access and Greenlight are often terrible, but the indie development scene has produced some absolute gold in recent years. The likes of Hyper Light Drifter, Inside, and The Witness are all very successful and, love them or hate them, highly rated games. It’s very unlikely that a major publisher would even think to take a risk on unusual games like these. These are the developers that will drive the industry forward, trying new ideas and giving players experiences that Call of Duty23 and FIFA2043 just won’t. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these games of course, it’s just nice to see developers being brave enough to try something new and put it out there for the players.
Not to mention Kickstarter. Whilst the video gaming side of Kickstarter has had a rough time lately, there are some very impressive looking games that are on their way thanks to crowd funding. I for one am looking forward to Yooka-Laylee and Battletech, expecting them to be well made, polished games. Mighty Number 9 has been a high profile flop, but there are still plenty of fresh, interesting ideas out there just begging to be made.
This is almost an extension of the indie development point. There is just so much choice these days (I might argue too much) when it comes to gaming. Want to work in a kitchen with your friends? There’s a game for that. Fancy competing with an evil teddy bear in a battle of investigative wits? Got you covered. Feel the desperate urge to walk around a forest pretending to be a bear? Yep, that’s a thing. My point is that there is practically something for everybody who has even a passing interest in gaming these days. Not all of them are good, far from it, but the fact that something like Euro Truck Simulator exists is a testament to how the industry has moved away from platformers and ultra-violence.
Yes, I know I complained about microtransactions. And I stand by my complaint that they should not be a feature in full priced releases. But DLC is something that has allowed game prices to remain pretty much flat for a very long time. Physical releases of console games in the UK have been hovering around the £40-£45 mark for many years in spite of an increase in VAT and inflation (not so much their digital costs). PC games are even cheaper thanks to sensible digital distribution platforms like Steam and GOG and their regular sales events.
Further to this point, some DLC practices have been really rather good. Whilst so many shooters are content to release another set of maps to play online, games like The Witcher 3 get enormous expansions the size of another full game. There are some teams who genuinely seem to care about what happens to their game after release, and I’d love to see more of this.
Online passes failed
Do you remember online passes? They were an attempt to cripple the second-hand games market by locking out the multiplayer portion of a game unless you entered a one time code or paid an additional fee. Whilst I do appreciate that this existed as a way to offset losses suffered by used game being purchased rather than new copies, an attempt to lock out a portion of a game rather than giving a positive reason to buy a new copy garnered nothing but ill will from the vast majority of gamers. I don’t know how much sales suffered as a result, but gradually over the years this punitive measure has thankfully dies out.
Now, I know where this is going for some people: what about PS+ and XBL Gold? Well, yes, these models do force payment for online multiplayer. But put simply, the extras that come with it are pretty great. Two or more games gifted to you each month is pretty good, especially when some of them have been as good as Rocket League and the Tomb Raider reboot. I don’t really play much multiplayer, so this has almost become a game subscription service, and I’m sure that’s the case for others too. Now the Nintendo Switch version of this…well that’s a different story right now.
Ok, so there weren’t as many positives as negatives, and that last one was a bit of a backhanded positive point. Still though, there are some things that are positive in this hobby these days. Maybe even major publishers will start to take notice and have things developed that are outside their usual catalogue. Gaming has the potential to go from strength to strength this generation, lets hope to see plenty of good to offset the bad!