I Can’t Stop Thinking About Black Myth: Wukong

Last month, a gameplay trailer for an upcoming game called Black Myth: Wukong by a China based developer called Game Science released to almost immediate viral uproar. When I say uproar, I do not mean it in negative terms. I mean that the gaming community went crazy with how impressed we all were with the footage. I have to say that personally I wasn’t just impressed. I was enamored. In fact, I was so impressed that this is the first game that I have ever thought to myself that I would actually invest in a crowdfunding campaign for it. If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time then you probably know that I have really negative feelings about supporting crowdfunded game development projects, but this trailer captivated me enough to be willing to break my own general rule about them.

Black Myth: Wukong is an action adventure game that stars the Monkey King (Sun Wukong in Mandarin). For those who don’t know, the Monkey King is a Chinese deity best known for his role in the classic Buddhist epic tale Journey to the West. While most people outside of Asia probably don’t formally know this story, there’s a good chance you’ve seen some adapted version or reference to it at some point in your life. When I was a kid, my first exposure to the story was a cartoon called Monkey Magic. It was a Saturday morning anime that sometimes appeared on TV. Sadly it was only 13 episodes and never played consistently but I really liked the show. At this point I had no idea about Journey to the West or the greater significance of the Monkey King character. Other examples of the Journey to the West/Monkey King mythos being adapted for Western and younger Asian audiences are actually all over the place and have been for decades. The original Dragonball manga/cartoon is an adaptation of this story. Goku is the Monkey King, which explains why he always seems to have too much power. The game Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (2010) is an adaptation of this story. There’s a good chance you know the skeleton of the Journey to the West narrative but don’t realize it. For me, I’ve been a fan of the Monkey King character for most of my life, but I’ve never really thought of him in terms of Buddhism precisely because I was exposed to the character via numerous non-religious adaptations of the story and character.

EnslavedThe Monkey King is an interesting character because he’s carefree and funny but honestly way too over powered. He’s like if Superman got the Infinity Gauntlet and destroyed all the kryptonite in the universe. While I’m by no means an expert on the subject, I’m aware of several powers the character has at his disposal. For starters, he has a staff that can shrink and grow to any size and length. This is the “power pole” Goku uses in Dragonball. He also has a flying cloud that he can ride at high speed anywhere he wants to go that can be summoned at any time. You probably know this as “flying nimbus” from Dragonball Z. He is also a great martial artist, using monkey style kung fu, with herculean strength and unmatchable speed. But these are just the surface level things the Monkey King can do. His more epic powers, many of which are not known to people in the West, include an insane number of abilities. For instance, all of his hairs can be picked off one at a time and thrown to create clones of himself. Those same hairs can also turn into weapons and other objects including animals. He can transform into up to 72 different alternate forms each with their own abilities and uses such as animals and special objects. This is made reference to in Naruto when the third Hokage summons Monkey King: Enma and has him turn into a staff to fight Orochimaru. Supposedly the Monkey King even has the ability to manipulate the weather and cast magic that freezes people in place. The character is just a wee bit too strong.

gokuThe Monkey King’s ridiculous amount of power is, in my opinion, why we’ve never really had a great Monkey King game before. We have had Monkey King games in the past but I’ve always found them disappointing. And I’ve certainly not tried all of them. It’s hard to make a balanced game with a character that is just too powerful. Even just making a compelling story about such a character is difficult. That’s why many of the stories surrounding the Monkey King are about him getting his powers stolen or locked away. In fact, the principle concept of his character in Journey to the West is that he has been captured/enslaved by a Buddhist monk with a golden ring that is stuck on his head and keeps him under the monk’s control. The most recent Monkey King video game I tried was Monkey King: Hero is Back (2019) published by THQ Nordic. I was so disappointed with this game and I had such high hopes for it when I tried it. Ultimately I found it to be a lack luster experience for a number of reasons, not all of which had to do with the specific subject matter. But to be fair, that particular game is based directly on an animated movie that came out in 2015. That doesn’t excuse the gameplay and loading issues, but the graphics and plot were completely justified. In whatever case, this was not the Monkey King game I always wanted. Really I didn’t think I’d ever get the game I wanted, until I saw the trailer for Black Myth: Wukong.

I don’t like the whole “Black Myth: Wukong looks like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” narrative. I think that’s reductionist. What’s important is what the 13 minutes of gameplay footage delivered on its own terms. This is a fantasy game, which is in my opinion important to the setting of the mythos. The Monkey King is a talking monkey with powers. His origin is that of a monkey. He is not a human that fused with a monkey or a human-monkey offspring hybrid. He is a monkey. This requires a fantasy setting where animals walk and talk like people. But this is not a cartoony game. What sets this game’s setting apart from Monkey King: Hero is Back and many other Monkey King adaptations is that the setting is a realistic, more adult version of that fantasy setting. It does look like a Sekiro or a Ghost of Tsushima where the art style is meant to mimic real life in an animated way, but without losing the fantasy aspect of it. While obvious, this is a third person action game. That’s a non-negotiable detail that is an absolute must for a good Monkey King game. The powers are present. Even though many of his powers are OP, it wouldn’t really be a Monkey King game if you didn’t have them. The footage showed the clone power, the power pole, the transformation power, the flying nimbus, and more. This is both an authentic Monkey King game and an adult action game. That’s the Monkey Game I’ve been waiting for.

Wukong SettingThe other thing that really sold me on this game was the lead developer’s response to the trailer going viral. Many devs would have gotten big headed and reveled in the overwhelmingly positive response, but this developer didn’t. He was extremely humble. So much so that he pointed out the flaws in the trailer, none of which I noticed on my own, and apologized for them saying that he wishes he had the resources to do better work. He then proceeded to say that he didn’t even want to release the trailer but did so as a means of advertising employment opportunities. Let me say that again. This guy released a trailer that went viral not in order to promote the game but to promote job openings to make the final project look better than the trailer that went viral. That’s the most respectable shit I’ve seen from a developer in a long time. Get this man a team and more funding right now!

Wukong ClonesThe problem is that this game is a huge undertaking and, as the head of Game Science stated, their team is too small. And since it’s an indie, they’re probably underfunded as well. I don’t know anything about their publishing options for this game. They may not even be far enough along to have started that conversation yet. Their website doesn’t have a release date, but it says the game “shouldn’t take 500 years”. I know that’s a joke reference to the story that the Monkey King was trapped under a mountain by Buddha for 500 years, but that kind of statement still makes me sad. Because it’s definitely a reference to their lack of resources. Usually I don’t care about this sort of thing. Games are shown and cancelled all the time. Plus there are way too many games on my backlog anyway. The last game I got salty about being cancelled was Scalebound, which I’m still not over, and that was cancelled three years ago. I don’t want to see Black Myth: Wukong get cancelled, because I actually care about getting a good Monkey King game. So now I can’t stop thinking about it and there’s not even anything I can do about it. I’m a writer, not a game designer. And clearly they already got the story written. So all I can do is sit and hope other people with more useful skills make my dreams come true. What a futile existence the life of a gamer is sometimes.

I don’t really have a point to this post. I just wanted to rant about my frustrations concerning Black Myth: Wukong and the fact that I’m scared it may never actually be released. I hope one day I get to play the Monkey King game I’ve always wanted. And now I hope that game will be Black Myth: Wukong.

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Do You Really Want to Play as Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers?

Hot Take: Spider-Man is an overrated Marvel character. The character is quite good and very relatable. My best memories of the character are watching reruns of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and Spider-Man: The Animated Series as a kid. I remember when Tobey Maguire, still my favorite Peter Parker, showed us what a live action Spider-Man could be. I had Spider-Man themed birthdays as a kid. I know and love Spider-Man. But you know what; he’s not the best Marvel character by a fairly wide margin.

Spider-Man is a good character because he’s relatable . . . sort of. People relate to Spider-Man because Peter Parker comes off as a nerd with a heart of gold and family problems who often fails but never gives up. He’s pretty much the Marvel comics version of Luke Skywalker (pre-Episode VIII of course). But really that’s a misconception of who Peter Parker actually is. Peter Parker, long before being bitten by the spider, is a brilliant scientist. He’s no Reed Richards, but he’s much smarter than your average Joe. He’s also fairly snarky and great at making witty, funny comments and comebacks off the cuff. He’s also not really a loser the way many people make him out to be. Remember that he landed both Gwen Stacey and Mary Jane Watson. A hot blonde nerdy girl and a hot red head popular girl. What about this character is so relatable to the general public? In my more than 30 years on this planet, I’ve met a fair number of people. Some are smart, but most aren’t brilliant. Some are funny, but most aren’t that funny all the time. And some are good at charming certain types of women/people but not all types at all times. I don’t know anyone who is brilliant, hilarious, and charming, while also being poor and having confidence issues. Those five characteristics don’t actually appear concurrently within one person commonly, if at all. That is to say, YOU ARE NOT PETER PARKER!

Episode - Screenshot 2018-09-18 22-31-21The arrogance a person has to have to relate to Peter Parker is astounding. I’d say it’s easier to relate to the Hulk than it is to relate to Peter Parker. Because Bruce Banner is a brilliant scientist who has anger issues and is terrible at romantic relationships because of insecurities brought on by his anger issues and physical appearance. That’s a real person. I know plenty of people who can relate to the Hulk. Hell I can relate to the Hulk at times. No one can actually relate to Peter Parker. I tried to think of a famous person that might be able to relate to Peter Parker and I couldn’t. I kept coming back to Elon Musk, but then I remembered he was raised rich from an Apartheid Diamond mine fortune. No one has all five of the main features of Peter Parker. Some might have three. Essentially people are misidentifying with Peter Parker. And I want to address the fact that I’m intentionally focusing on Peter Parker because Spider-Man was a fan favorite long before Miles Morales, Spider-Gwen, or any of the other modern Spider totems that people outside of straight white males latch onto due to a lack of identifiable options. Most likely because of the mask, which allowed for everyone to pretend to be Spider-Man without having to deal with the cosplay color barrier. But at the end of the day the character is an OK player in the Marvel power tiers and in reality most people shouldn’t even be able to relate to Peter Parker, even before he got his powers. Though I will accept the counter argument that he was only able to land M.J. because he got his powers. But still I say Spider-Man is overrated.

MJ WatsonWhy does this matter? Why is a post on a gaming blog discussing the merits of Spider-Man? Obviously it’s because Spider-Man has been a part of gaming for multiple generations and its once again a current topic of discussion in reference to gaming. Specifically the announcement that Spider-Man will be a PlayStation exclusive character in the upcoming Marvel’s Avengers.

Marvel’s Avengers is a game where you get to play as Thor, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, and several other characters yet to be introduced. I tried the game last year at Gamescom 2019. It’s an action game with cooperative elements. It plays well enough, but probably won’t revolutionize action games that much. And that’s fine. I don’t need every game to change the game. I just need them to be fun and ideally well written. It’s certainly better than any other Marvel collection of heroes game I’ve ever played. Shots fired Marvel Ultimate Alliance. The point is we’re getting a cooperative Avengers third person 3D action game made at AAA quality. That’s awesome. Forget everything else you know or think you know and just take a second to appreciate the fact that we’re finally getting the game we’ve been waiting for since the first Avengers movie back in 2012. If nothing else, we can be thankful for that. Now let’s get back to Spider-Man.

marvel-ultimate-alliance-3-the-black-order-switchRecently it was announced that Spider-Man will be a PlayStation exclusive playable character in Marvel’s Avengers. Let’s start by quickly summarizing why that is. IT’S BUSINESS! SONY owns the rights to Spider-Man in high concept console games because of their contract with Marvel’s Spider-Man. There is much more nuance to it than that but pretty much any new AAA Marvel game can’t feature Spider-Man unless it’s on PlayStation and SONY has the legal ability to make it exclusive, probably with some additional payments made for the privilege. Spider-Man appears in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order because Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is a Switch exclusive. If it wasn’t then Spider-Man wouldn’t be in the Switch or XBOX ONE versions of the game. Meaning it’s an apples and oranges situation when compared to Marvel’s Avengers.

Is it right that exclusive content exists? Depends on the project, funding, and a host of other factors. But is it common in the gaming industry? Absolutely. Acting like this is surprising or unprecedented is like being surprised that Anthem flopped. I think a better question is why do I as a PlayStation user care?

PS5 VersionExclusives are an interesting topic. Especially at the end of a console generation. No one is buying a PS4 in late 2020. There’s no reason to. You’re either not buying a PlayStation console or you’re waiting and buying a PS5. That’s 90% of the market. Sure a few people will pick up budget pricing PS4s on Black Friday and visit the fairly impressive library after a generation of being disappointed by their XBOX ONE. But that’s a very small portion of the market. 100 million PS4s have already been sold. So there’s not really anyone buying a PS4 at this point just to use Spider-Man in an Avengers game. But maybe this will sell some PS5s, I guess. Really it’s more a slap in the face to XBOX users than it is a boon to PlayStation users at this point in the generation. Especially when you consider that probably 100% of players who are considering buying Marvel’s Avengers on PS4 have already played Marvel’s Spider-Man on PS4.

I don’t want to play as Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers, as a PS4 owner. Precisely because I’ve already played Marvel’s Spider-Man. Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man game is objectively the best Spider-Man game ever made by a wide margin. I won’t even debate the statement with anyone. No better Spider-Man gameplay experience currently exists. And I platinumed that game, like many other players did. So first we need to deal with Spider-Man fatigue, which apparently no one other than me gets. But also we have to deal with the issue of lower quality gameplay. I know beyond a reasonable doubt that piloting Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers will not feel as good as piloting Spider-Man in Marvel’s Spider-Man. I am sure beyond a reasonable doubt that the gameplay will not be better in a collection of characters game than that perfectly crafted PlayStation exclusive masterpiece. I don’t think anyone who has actually played Marvel’s Spider-Man would disagree with that statement. I can’t prove it as of yet, but I know it’s true. So the question is why would you want to play inferior Spider-Man gameplay after having already experienced the pinnacle of Spider-Man gameplay? If you had the best burger you’ve ever tasted you wouldn’t then turn to eating an inferior burger. If you found a beer you really liked you wouldn’t then turn to drinking Budweiser. So why after having the In-N-Out of Spider-Man gameplay would you want to go back to McDonald’s?

Episode - Screenshot 2018-09-08 00-55-37Let me be clear. I’m not saying the gameplay for Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers will be bad. I’m just saying it won’t hold a candle to Marvel’s Spider-Man. So why is it a selling point for you as a PS4 owner? This game will offer some of, if not, the best gameplay for other characters that you’ve ever seen. It will probably be the best Thor gameplay you’ve ever played. It might be the best Hulk gameplay you’ve ever played. It will absolutely be the best Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Ms. Marvel gameplay you’ve ever played. So why do you want to waste your time playing inferior Spider-Man gameplay when you can player superior gameplay of just about any other character that will appear in the game? It doesn’t make any sense. I get being a Spider-Man fanboy. I’m a Kratos fanboy. But I wouldn’t play a lackluster God of War game because of it. Not intentionally anyway. I just don’t see the logic in caring about Spider-Man in this particular game following a much better game with hopefully another great Spider-Man game on its way; Spider-Man: Miles Morales on PS5. I can’t wait to play Marvel’s Avengers. And I will absolutely play a Marvel’s Spider-Man 2. But I have no interest in playing as Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers. I get why XBOX ONE players would want Spider-Man in Marvel’s Avengers. They didn’t get to play Marvel’s Spider-Man. If anything, it would be better business for SONY to make Spider-Man paid DLC on XBOX ONE for a cut of the profits. Better business for them, not the consumers.

Marvels Avengers GameUltimately I think all characters should be available on all platforms for free. But I understand how Spider-Man has become a PlayStation exclusive. I just don’t get why most PlayStation users care. I’ll be busy using Hulk and Thor. Maybe even Kamala Khan, because rubber powers are awesome. But I have no interest in playing an inferior Spider-Man game less than a year before another superior Spider-Man game will release. I have to many other games to play to waste my time with that. And hopefully I’ll have too many other characters to use in Marvel’s Avengers as well.

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Physical Versions, Next-Gen Upgrades, & Stupid Consumers

Every so often a topic comes up that’s so incredibly obvious with the opposition being so criminally stupid that I just have to state the facts and the bare minimum of obvious logic to make a point that I would have hoped didn’t need to be made to begin with. This is one of those posts. I actually didn’t even need to write this post. I just wanted to have my prediction, to come later, published for the record.

Because of Microsoft’s, for once consumer friendly and absolutely correct, decision to essentially mandate that all new XBOX ONE releases that will have immediate XBOX Series X releases as well provide free upgrades to users that bought the XBOX ONE version, SONY has gotten on board and sort of mandated the same thing for PS4 titles that will soon after release on PS5. Some might argue that SONY’s decision had nothing to do with Microsoft’s announcement, and that may or may not be true, but it’s actually totally irrelevant to this discussion so grow up and let’s move on. One of the more relevant examples of this is/will be Watch Dogs Legion, which funny enough, I’m really looking forward to playing . . . on PC.

Watch_Dogs_LegionFor both XBOX and PlayStation users, Ubisoft will provide free next gen upgrades of Watch Dogs Legion. If you buy the game on XBOX ONE, you will get a free version of the game to play on XBOX Series X. If you buy the game on PS4, you will get a free version of the game to play on PS5. And all will be right with the world. But of course not the gaming community. It’s important to note that the free next gen upgraded version of Watch Dogs Legion, and all other games that will provide such an upgrade free of charge, will be digital versions of the game. That is to say that Ubisoft, Microsoft, and SONY, being businesses with an interest in profit, will not ship you a next gen physical copy Watch Dogs Legion just because you bought a current gen physical copy of the game. They will instead give your online network account, XBL for XBOX users and PSN for PlayStation users, access to download and play a digital version of the game on your next gen console. I assume there will be some way for other accounts on the console to also play the next gen version of the game, similar to how digital games work on consoles now, but I can neither confirm nor deny this claim at this time. What I can say is that if you buy a copy of Watch Dogs Legion on a current gen console, then you will be able to play a digital version of the game on a next gen console when logged into your current gen account that purchased/registered the game. I use the term registered here for those that purchased physical editions of the game.

I first want to recognize that this is an entirely new concept. Back in the day, we were never given free upgrades to cross gen titles. You either accepted playing it on current gen hardware, waited and bought it on next gen hardware, or bought two copies of the game. Those were your options. And you never had the ability to transfer saves. There were no free upgrades. I played The Force Unleashed (2008) on PS2 and only on PS2. I played Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014) on PS3 and only on PS3. It was actually one of the first games I can remember that later added a cross save transfer feature because they decided to keep making DLC for the game but only for the PS4 version. I wasn’t gonna wait to play those games, they didn’t give free upgrades, and I sure as shit wasn’t gonna buy the same game twice. Not like I had time to replay either of them anyway. The fact that we’ve now gotten to a point where publishers are just giving us next gen versions of games for free is amazing. *Glances at Nintendo angrily.*

Cyberpunk UpgradeHere’s the deal. You’re getting a free upgrade from current gen to next gen with the understanding that you’ve purchased a game that you couldn’t wait to play and will hopefully continue playing that game on next gen because in the future there will be additional, most likely paid, content that the developers/publishers want you to also play without expecting you to go back to last gen hardware after you’ve already made the transition to next gen consoles. Watch Dogs Legion is a great example of this because we all know additional content way down the road is Ubisoft’s bread and butter. There will be a Watch Dogs Legion gold edition, there will be paid DLC way after launch, and you probably will have had ample time to upgrade consoles long before Ubisoft stops producing content for the game. That’s just the way things work now. Especially for Ubisoft titles. They are not giving you a free upgrade just to own. And they are certainly not giving you a free upgrade so you can sell your last gen copy of the game. These are businesses after all. The fact that upgrades will be free is already more charitable than I would have ever expected from this industry. Expect paid DLC with meaningful content that should have been in the base game for pretty much every game that offers a free upgrade. Because publishers and developers will want to recoup those lost next gen version sales dollars somewhere.

I’m actually curious to see if there’s a time limit on these upgrades because an easy “scam” would be to wait for PS4 games to drop down to peanuts, buy them, and then get the free upgrade to play on PS5. The PS4 version of Watch Dogs Legion will probably drop to $20 within like six months after the release of the PS5. Meanwhile the PS5 version will probably retain its price for a while during the console’s transition period. So you could potentially get a new AAA for under $30 on PS5 within a year of the console even releasing. Don’t be surprised if they put a time limit on these free upgrades. The amount of money lost in this concept is more than I expect any large publisher to accept. And I consider Ubisoft one of the better ones. Wait till EA starts releasing games with free next gen upgrades.  In fact, they’ve already announced a time limit to get a free upgrade for Madden 22.

watch dogs legion physicalThe point is that you’re not being given two versions of the game for the price of one. You’re being given one game for the price of one that can be played on two machines. That’s the context these free upgrades are being given in. So it would make sense that certain protections would be put in place to protect publishers/developers from losing additional sales of their games due to people trying to game the system. One way one might game the system is to buy a physical PS4 copy of a game, at a discount as I expressed above, claim the digital PS5 version via free upgrade, and then go sell the physical PS4 version of the game. You can’t do this with digital versions of games because we still have no way to sell or trade digital games (legally). But physical versions are absolutely at risk for such practices. So companies need to protect themselves from this in some way.

The way it will work on PS5, and I believe on XBOX Series X based on what I’ve read, is that if you buy a physical version of a PS4 game then you will need to put that disc in the PS5 for the free upgrade to work. As in to play the game on PS5, you need the disc in the PS5 tray at all times. As in the way every physical game has worked for the entire history of physical games. Again, you are not getting two games for the price of one. You’re getting one game that can be used on two different machines. This makes sense, is convenient, and shouldn’t have been a problem for anyone. But this is the gaming community we’re talking about.

Watch Dogs Upgrade NoteThe PS5, and presumably the XBOX Series X, will have a digital only version of the console. Same console with no disc drive for a presumably lower price. How much lower still remains to be seen. The controversy, or nontroversy as I like to call such occurrences as this, came when Tim Warren, Senior Editor at The Verge (of course), tweeted that the PS5 free upgrade of Watch Dogs Legion would require the PS4 disc to be in the tray while playing. People got angry because they asked “What if you buy the digital only version of the PS5?” This presents an interesting thought experiment. The interesting part being trying to figure out what kind of mouth breather is stupid enough to buy the physical version of a game on PS4 knowing they are going to buy the digital edition of the PS5 and want to use the free upgrade? No one does this. No one has all this information in advance and still buys the physical version of Watch Dogs Legion and then the digital edition PS5. The only way this issue actually comes up for someone is they acquired the physical version of the game without purchasing it. They either won it, stole it, found a copy of it lying on the street, or received it as a gift. While all valid scenarios that have yet to be addressed, this is a very small percentage of users. There isn’t some large number of people who are going to end up with physical versions of PS4 games they want to play on PS5 that end up getting the digital edition of the new console. But people will act like there are.

While this is a non-issue, there are a number of people who will and have already complained about this. People are demanding that SONY create a scenario where people who do have the physical version of Watch Dogs Legion, and other free upgrade PS4 games, can still take advantage of the free upgrades on the digital edition of the PS5. And now they will.

PS5 VersionWhile there is pretty much no need to address this from a practical standpoint, the internet is not practical. People will bemoan SONY for not allowing people to make the switch from physical to full digital cross gen. And let’s be clear about why SONY is the one taking the brunt of this criticism. Microsoft hasn’t announced their digital only version of the XBOX Series X yet. Once they do, the same criticisms will be lodged at them if they haven’t already prepared a statement on this issue. They probably will, having seen people complain about the PS5 on this issue. But the point is SONY is being targeted simply because they showed their cards first.

Here’s how I foresee SONY will ultimately deal with this. It won’t be for at least a good six months to a year after launch, but the flood gates are now open so a solution is inevitable. My prediction is that SONY releases a disc drive accessory that connects to the console via USB . It’s a dumb solution but an actionable one. The technology is already fairly common. And of course the accessory will be expensive. In this case, I’m OK with that. People should have to pay extra for being inexplicably stupid. SONY will reap the benefits of that stupidity as they always have. Microsoft will then follow suit in the same way because XBOX Series X digital edition users will whine that they want a disc drive accessory too. The funniest part will be that all of them will pat themselves on the back and act like having the removable accessory is more convenient than just having the disc drive preinstalled in the console. What a sad time we live in.

PS5 Disc DriveIt’s interesting that we live in a time where something so obviously stupid and simple to deal with can become a huge issue that gets addressed directly by billion dollar corporations. At some point I feel like companies should just put their foot down and say enough is enough. But that will never happen after all the flak Microsoft got when they tried to pull that always online XBOX ONE crap. The difference there was that Microsoft was clearly in the wrong. The fact that people have leveraged moments like that to continually make bad arguments sound legitimate is sad but unsurprising. These are the same people that try to justify not wearing masks during a global pandemic. The point is that digital games are digital games and physical games are physical games. The fact that anyone thought that they would be able to buy a physical game and just get a free no strings attached digital version of the game on next gen consoles is laughable. Are people really that stupid? Yes, they really are apparently. And stupidity is profitable. I can’t wait to see what other pointless accessories are needed to quell the opinions of people who shouldn’t be voicing them out loud to begin with.

physical-vs-digital-coverA better question, that one also shouldn’t expect to work in their favor, is what happens if you buy Watch Dogs Legion on XBOX ONE but ultimately buy a PS5 instead of an XBOX Series X? This question is only relevant for third party titles. Obviously a platform exclusive like Ghost of Tsushima isn’t going to be part of a discussion about XBOX Series X. But a Ubisoft game will be on all four titles in question and is published by a neutral third party. So technically there really isn’t any reason why a person shouldn’t be able to get the free upgrade after changing sides. Even more so with Ubisoft specifically because of the Ubisoft Club system. Ubisoft actually has a way to verify who has their games on which platforms independent of SONY or Microsoft. Now with physical games, there’s not really a valid solution that protects the publisher. You can’t just put an XBOX ONE disc in a PS5 and expect it to work. Even though technically it probably could. But if you had a digital version of the game on XBOX ONE there’s not really any reason Ubisoft shouldn’t give you a PS5 version of the game if that’s what you want. Obviously you’d be foregoing the ability to claim an XBOX Series X version of the game in this scenario. I’m not implying this will happen. I’m merely saying that this is a topic of discussion that’s way more valid than expecting Ubisoft to just give you a free no strings attached replacement for a physical game in digital form on another platform. The XBOX ONE copy isn’t transferable or sellable in any way so unless they sell the entire console without deleting their XBL and Ubisoft Club account information from it, there’s no risk of a person selling their original copy of the game.

Obviously Microsoft and SONY would not be happy with the idea of Ubisoft or EA allowing players to switch sides like that and there would probably be some repercussions for implementing such a program. But it’s a much more valid demand from consumers than this digital edition PS5 nonsense.

How much do you think SONY will charge for PS5 their disc drive accessory?

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

What Happened to State of Play?

If you read my blog regularly, then you may have noticed that I did not do posts about either the Ghost of Tsushima or The Last of Us Part II State of Play presentations. This should have seemed strange to my normal readers because up until this point I have done a post about every State of Play episode since the beginning. So I wanted to talk about why I chose not to do posts for those two presentations and will continue not to do posts for State of Play presentations done in the same style as those ones moving forward.

I really like the original State of Play format. It’s very similar to the Nintendo Direct format, but in some ways I like it even better. I won’t go into too much detail, because I’ve already written at length about this previously. But basically what I like(d) about the State of Play format was the highly informative, time efficient, look at multiple upcoming games. Even more so did I value the fact that they often gave time to games that were not highly anticipated AAA titles that had already been hyped up for more than a year. These recent single game presentations have betrayed that original format/style.

AAA State of PlayThe last two State of Plays were your run of the mill AAA E3 presentations done via video. You could have taken either one of those presentations and played them live at E3 and they would have been no different. And I think it’s fairly obvious that they happened because E3 will no longer be happening this year. And let me state clearly that I have no problem with such presentations and that I was already planning on buying both of those games. I’m especially excited for Ghost of Tsushima and preordered the Special Edition before this presentation even went live. What I do have a problem with is that these presentations are being given the State of Play label.

By labeling these extended single game presentations as State of Play episodes, SONY has essentially betrayed the original format and altered it to be pretty much any game related content they choose to put out digitally. That’s a bad thing, in my opinion. It’s disorganized and completely derails the user base’s ability to set expectations for future State of Play episodes. The next time we get a State of Play announcement, we will have no way of accurately setting expectations for what it will be. Will it be a single game presentation, multiple snapshots of upcoming indie games, a new game announcement, or something completely different? Note that I’m not saying that any of those types of content is more of less valuable than any others. What I’m saying is that users have varied interests and should be able to decide whether or not they want to watch a presentation before hand based on the expectations of what it will be. But SONY has removed our ability to accurately set those expectations, thereby trying to manipulate everyone into sitting through presentations they may or may not have an interest in.

Ghost of Tsushima State of PlayThe weirdest thing is the fact that the, now rightfully delayed, June 4th PS5 presentation wasn’t labeled as State of Play. This was billed as a presentation of upcoming games by multiple studios of various sizes. Other than the longer running time, this was way more in line with the original State of Play format than the single game presentations and yet they labeled it The Future of Gaming. So the question I have is why create an entirely new name for this presentation that falls more in line with the original State of Play format while not creating a different name for presentations that don’t fall in line with the original format?

Truthfully they didn’t even need to give those single game presentations a label to begin with. They could have just billed them as gameplay presentations of their respective games. That is a commonly occurring form of content released by publishers and developers. The decision to label them both as State of Play presentations was an intentional one and I find that disappointing. Because I want more of the original State of Play format content. I don’t want the only type of presentations from PlayStation to be long form presentations of AAA titles I already know I’m going to buy. That type of content is pretty much useless to any informed gamer. It just builds hype. I know plenty of people who didn’t even watch The Last of Us Part II presentation because they had either already decided to buy it or already decided not to buy it, because we’ve already seen previous presentations, hype build up, and for some the leaks. Meaning the presentation did very little to push people in either direction. Whereas a presentation of upcoming titles that weren’t already super hyped and highly anticipated would have been much more valuable and informative to a larger number of players.

The-Last-of-Us-2-PlayStation-State-of-PlayI know I probably sound like Grandpa Simpson yelling at clouds, but these sorts of choices are important. They can mean the difference between calling attention to an otherwise unknown game and getting it some much needed, and often deserved, time in the spotlight and an indie studio going bankrupt. They also affect users. I don’t necessarily care to watch an extended gameplay presentation of a game I’m already decided on. But I absolutely want to watch a presentation of multiple game announcements or snapshots for titles I’m not aware of or familiar with. And like most people, my time is both limited and valuable to me. But next time SONY says a State of Play is incoming I won’t necessarily know what to expect. So in a way they’ve taken away my agency as a viewer because I’ll potentially be going in blind and can very possibly be highly disappointed with the content. Not because the content is necessarily bad. But because it’s content I have no interest in watching.

Predator Hunting Grounds
Not good.

Again, I like the original State of Play format. I’m sad to see it already being betrayed after only four episodes. I hope SONY hasn’t decided to kill it off altogether this early on and opted for exclusively traditional single AAA gameplay presentations. For me, that would be a real tragedy. It’s only because of the State of Play presentations that I took a serious interest in games like Untitled Goose Game, Predator: Hunting Grounds, and Wattam. And it doesn’t matter if any or all of the games were ultimately good or bad. Predator: Hunting Grounds is bad by the way. What matters is that the State of Play episodes got me looking at games that I otherwise was never going to consider buying or probably even trying. That’s what the original format of State of Play was accomplishing: alerting gamers to games they may not have had on the radar. And that’s what it needs to continue to do. As such, if PlayStation continues to put out State of Plays as AAA game presentations for games that have already been hyped up and had lots of previous content released, then I will continue to not cover them on this blog. Because talking to you about previews we didn’t need serves even less purpose than the presentations themselves. It makes more sense just to wait and review the full games after I’ve played them at that point.

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

The Time for Smaller Maps is Nigh

I’m not a huge fan of open world games. I don’t hate them. Nor do I have any problem with playing them. I’ve played countless open world games over the course of my life. This year alone I’ve already played three or four of them. Currently I’m playing Assassin’s Creed: Origins. I definitely play and enjoy them, when made well. But I don’t prefer them. I’m fine with a linear game. I think the best design choice is the soft open world game though. Not a full open world but rather a limited sized map that allows for exploration in controlled environments. Games like Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Nioh 2, and God of War (2018) are all different versions of this concept. They all contain open exploration in controlled map settings but are not housed within large open worlds. As a 30 year old with a large backlog and many responsibilities, this type of world/exploration design is definitely my preference. It allows the feeling of exploration and discovery without the daunting task of spending countless hours combing wide empty spaces for a single collectible.

When I was a kid, open worlds existed but they were rare. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is probably the most prolific example of an open world from my childhood. They also weren’t the standard or the preference for most players. By the time I finished high school, open world games had become common. Franchises like The Elder Scrolls, Assassin’s Creed, and GTA had now become favorites in the gaming community and ushered in a new era of game development standards. By the time I graduated college, open worlds had become more than just a genre. They were an expectation. Everyone seemed to want open worlds and developers went out of their way to provide some version of them. Even when the games they were making didn’t really need it. Competing with franchises like Red Dead Redemption, Borderlands, and Far Cry made open worlds a must for many players. But the way open world games were judged was pretty stupid and misinformed.

Ocarina of Time MapFor whatever reason, open worlds weren’t judged like other video games for a long time. Most games were/are compared based on their gameplay, graphics, and story. But open world games were being judged on things like map size, percentage of interactive elements, and graphics specific to the environment. A badly written game with a large open world was being judged favorably next to a linear game with a tight, well written story. Suddenly size and appearance seemed to be the only things that mattered in game design. And developers were happy to play along. It seemed like every game was getting bigger and bigger while the content quality was getting lower and less focused on storytelling. This is the era where fetch quests and collectibles re-surged and then blew past N64 proportions. It was a time of repetition and lots of walking. Even today, most games still don’t get fast travel right, but back then times were real bad. But it seemed like everyone was eating it up. People were complaining about games being too linear and not having enough content while defending things like “collect 40 feathers” scattered around the map. I hated it. Played through all of it, but really did not enjoy it. It’s one of the main reasons I never really got into 100% completion runs of games. I can’t be asked to do collectithons when the map is huge and fast travel is garbage. And Ubisoft, among other studios, love collectithons. Especially back then.

Dark Souls 2 MapWhile the open world genre has now been tempered with smaller map franchises like Dark Souls, South Park (Ubisoft), and Darksiders, the demand for bigger maps continued to proliferate at the same time. Games like GTAV, Arkham City, and Dragon Age: Inquisition are all examples of franchises that just kept growing the map size more for the sake of comparison than anything else. Yes those three games do have lively maps, but they also have lots of open space that’s good for nothing more than wasting your time as you move from point A to point B. And maps have continued to grow even more out of proportion. Ghost Recon: Breakpoint has a map that is just unnecessarily large. I’d say the same thing about Metal Gear Solid V and many other open world titles. And sadly this is the fault of consumers rather than developers.

It’s important to note that there is nothing inherently wrong with open world games or large maps. But there’s also nothing inherently right with them either. It’s the way the world is constructed and what you can do in it that matters. The setting plays a role as well. Let’s compare Ubisoft games as an example. Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, Watch Dogs 2, and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag are all open world Ubisoft titles. Of the three games, Breakpoint’s map is the only one I’d say was too large. Yet I think the Black Flag map might actually be the largest of the three games. What it comes down to is setting and scope. Black Flag is set in the entire Caribbean region of the Atlantic Ocean, Watch Dogs 2 is set in San Francisco, and Breakpoint is set on a fictional island. Black Flag is set in a time/setting where your only means of transportation across large areas is a ship. Watch Dogs 2 is set in a time/setting where you can only use road vehicles like cars and motorcycles. And Breakpoint is set in a time/setting where you have access to smaller boats, helicopters, road vehicles of various types, and motorcycles. When it comes to scope, Black Flag should feel the biggest. It has you traveling between countries by sailing ship with no motorized power. Watch Dogs 2 should feel the smallest. It has you driving around a single city. Breakpoint should feel larger than Watch Dogs 2, but not so large that it rivals or even surpasses Black Flag. Yet it’s the most grueling and time consuming of the three games to travel across.

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Breakpoint MapBreakpoint’s unnecessarily large map size is coupled with the fact that the map is fairly empty. You spend an exorbitant  amount of time just traveling across the map.  To its credit, a large number fast travel points are present in the game. But even then you still have to travel a ways to get to most objectives and collectibles even after using fast travel. The helicopter, which is easy to get, doesn’t make the trip that much faster. The map could easily be condensed by about 25%, or even more, and suddenly the amount of empty space with no encounters or gameplay value would stop being such an issue. But in the pursuit of bigger maps for the purpose of marketing and bragging rights, they made the map as big as they did. It did not make the game better in any way. It only made it appear to be bigger than it actually is when comparing actual content. These inflated map sizes have become the standard in open world game design. And it’s made games worse because of it. But it seems that change for the better is finally on the horizon.

I have not played Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey yet but I intend to. I’ve heard it is very good and considering how much I’m enjoying Assassin’s Creed: Origins I’m not surprised. But the biggest legitimate complaint I’ve heard against the game over and over again is that the map is simply too big. Or more accurately it’s too empty for how big it is. Seeing consumers complain that maps are starting get too big in larger numbers makes me happy. It means that demand is changing. It means that people are finally maturing to the fact that more time spent in a game doesn’t make the game better if that time isn’t spent on meaningful content. It means that the never ending push for bigger maps is on its way out. It means that collectithons will finally start to reduce or disappear altogether from open world games. Games are shaped by demand and the demand for mindlessly larger maps is finally in decline.

Assassin's Creed Odyssey MapAssassin’s Creed: Valhalla is the next game in the franchise. Ubisoft has already stated that the map size will be managed better. They have waffled on what that means with conflicting announcements about whether that means smaller size, less empty space, or something else. But the point is that Ubisoft has openly acknowledged that the large map in Odyssey was not enjoyed by a large number of players and that this issue would be addressed in Valhalla. This is how it starts. This is how the industry ultimately gets past the idea that bigger maps automatically mean better games. People making their voices heard in large numbers and developers actually listening and making small, but notable changes. Valhalla will still probably have a map that’s too big with a lot of empty space. But some considerations will have been made. Then people will complain again and more considerations will be made in the next game. And other studios will see this and these responses from the public and they too will start to reduce the size of their maps. Or fill them with more meaningful content and less empty space. The market is finally primed to return to practical maps where space exists for the sake of content and not spectacle and I for one am looking forward to it.

 

cropped-blog-logo.png
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

These Aren’t the Cuts You’re Looking For

I’m not really big on director’s cuts of movies. Or more accurately, I’m not really big on the idea of multiple cuts of movies existing and being distributed. I want the theatrical cut of a movie to be the director’s cut. The entire concept of director’s cuts irritates me because it assumes that not only do I want to watch a movie a second time, but that I want to pay additional money to do so with the promise of a bit more footage. In my opinion, they should just let directors direct. But producers actually control a production a lot more than many people realize. The truth is that 9 times out of 10 you’re actually watching the producers cut of a movie.

The most interesting thing about this odd dynamic between producers and directors is that the people have been conditioned to favor directors while not really caring about producers. Think about how movies are billed. Producers are always listed in the opening credits, on posters, and in ads, but they’re never the focus. People are sold on the director and actors. Most don’t care in the slightest bit about who the producer is unless they’re currently being accused of sexual assault or heading a larger franchise like Kevin Feige at Marvel. But for a majority of films, regular people don’t really care about producer credits. And yet producers hold all the power. We’ve even seen productions where a director was fired simply because producers felt like they weren’t being shown enough respect. But still the movie marketing machine pushes people towards favoring directors rather than producers.

The ProducersThe director’s cut concept is a money making scheme that only works because of this relationship between producers and directors. But up until now it didn’t matter that much in most cases. Think about what director’s cuts actually accomplish. They give people the opportunity to rewatch a movie with a few additional scenes and rarely affect anything important about the story. Even in the case of a franchise, they usually don’t affect much. Look at The Lord of the Rings trilogy by Peter Jackson as an example. The extended director’s cuts add in some scenes for the sake of lore, but don’t really alter the story in significant ways. Of course part of this probably comes from the fact that Peter Jackson was both director and producer on those films. This is often the case with bigger productions. But it’s not always the case. The Avengers (2012) was written and directed by Joss Whedon but the only listed producer credit is Kevin Feige. While we of course couldn’t speak to the dynamic between them during production, on paper Kevin Feige was in charge of that production. Whedon was simply the instrument being used to create his vision. And yet it was Whedon who wrote the script. And notice that there is no director’s cut of the film available. There is an extended cut with a few extra scenes, but in no way has the marketing ever implied that the theatrical version and the home release version were significantly different films.

The AvengersThe real question is what happens when the dynamic changes from producer vs director to producer vs director vs director? The public has always been fed the idea that directors and producers often disagree and that this is the reason director’s cuts exist. But never before have we seen a scenario where a movie was released and then the same movie was remade by a second director with the same footage. This is completely different from the idea of a theatrical release vs a director’s cut. This would be two completely different movies with completely different visions. And technically producers could still disagree with both versions of the movie leading to two sets of theatrical versions and director’s cuts.

Releasing two completely different versions of the same film by two different directors is problematic. Doing it as part of an established franchise with an interconnected set of films is an absolute shit show. Think about how much people already fight over things like canon in nerd franchises. Now apply that to a comic book universe where two different directors make the  same film in the timeline. It has the potential to be continuity chaos. With all that being said, let’s discuss the Snyder Cut.

Who Shot FirstThe Snyder Cut refers to an alternate version of the film Justice League (2017). For the purposes of accuracy, I will give a detailed summary of the entire Snyder Cut controversy here. Many people are either not aware of the situation or are working with incomplete and/or inaccurate information. So I will summarize my interpretation of the situation, based on the reports I’ve read, here:

After the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One (Six films released between 2008 – 2012), DC/Warner Brothers decided that they could create a similar level of success with the Justice League comic pantheon. This would go on to be called the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) They decided that rather than try to copy and paste the Marvel tone and style that they would create a darker toned cinematic universe. They also wanted to get their first big crossover film out before the MCU released their culminating crossover film (Avengers: Infinity War). Zack Snyder was chosen to head the project. Or at least he was chosen to be the lead director if you want to be entirely accurate. With darker toned comic films under his belt such as 300 and Watchmen, this seemed like a fine choice for a darker toned cinematic comic book movie universe. Snyder directed both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the first two films in the DCEU. For the most part, people weren’t happy with either film. Neither film has above a 60% on Rotten Tomatoes. And Batman v Superman, the latter of the two has exactly half the score of Man of Steel. In both cases, the audience scores are significantly higher, but neither gets above 75% and Man of Steel still ranks higher than Batman v Superman. Meaning both the critical and public response to the DCEU films by Zack Snyder were received less than successfully and were dropping in approval from film to film. At the same time, both films were financially successful, bringing in more than double their production budgets in box office receipts. As such, Warner Brothers chose to have Snyder direct Justice League, which would serve as the equivalent to The Avengers (2012).

BVS RTZack Snyder started Justice League and it was reported that he produced an unfinished but technically entire draft of the film. Meaning that shooting had been completed but editing and reshoots had not been finalized. His daughter died during post production of the film. That’s an important detail. She died during post production of the film. This confirms that a complete draft of the film was produced. It just hadn’t been finalized. Due to the tragedy of losing a child, Snyder resigned from the project and was replaced by Joss Whedon, the writer and director of The Avengers. It’s important to note that a majority of people believed and accepted this story at the time of reporting. No one was unhappy with Snyder for leaving the project to mourn his daughter. And pretty much no one took issue with the idea of bringing in Joss Whedon for post-production, as a director proven to be capable of creating both critically and financially successful ensemble comic book films. Ultimately Justice League sucked, but was also financially successful, more than doubling its production budget in box office receipts. Technically speaking, it sucked less than Batman v Superman but more than Man of Steel both critically and to the public, based on Rotten Tomatoes critical and audience scores. But people decided to ignore this fact and argued that Snyder would have made a better movie. This is where things get tricky.

Release the Snyder Cut AgainIt’s only because Justice League was disappointing that people turned on Joss Whedon. If the movie had been as good as The Avengers, the conversation would have ended there. In the same way, it’s only because the movie sucked that people supported Snyder. People were not happy with Snyder ‘s first two DCEU films. But they were so unhappy with Justice League that they wanted to believe that Snyder’s film would have been better. This was coupled with the fact that it had been announced that an actual full cut of the film had already been produced by Snyder. Again, he left the project during post production. But really the most important detail in this entire story is the fact that after Justice League released, and sucked, it was reported that the producers actually didn’t like Snyder’s cut of the movie. Suddenly conspiracies saying that the producers had actually wanted to fire Snyder from the project but were able to use his daughter’s death as an amicable way out were going viral. Essentially people invented a story that made it seem like Snyder originally made a completely different film than what was released and that the evil woke producers, with the help of Joss Whedon, killed Snyder’s vision and released what again was a critically and  publicly better received film than Snyder’s last DCEU film. It was these conspiracy theories that led to the #ReleaseThe SnyderCut movement.

you can't save the world alone bigFor the past three years, people have campaigned unceasingly that they want to see Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League. For most of that time, Warner Brothers stated that they would absolutely not release that version of the film. This makes sense for two major reasons. First, it is extremely rude to Joss Whedon, who again not only produced a better received film than Snyder’s last DCEU project, but also a financially successful film. Joss Whedon did what he was hired to do. Directors are hired by producers to make financially successful films. That’s all they’re expected to do. Winning awards is nice. Making fans happy is nice. But those aren’t a director’s job. A director’s job is to make producers money by delivering financially successful movies. Joss Whedon succeeded in this endeavor with his cut of Justice League. The other equally important reason that Warner Brothers didn’t want to release an alternate version of the film, ignoring the fact that it’s pretty much never been done before, is that it would be a continuity nightmare.

Three other films within the same universe as Justice League have already been released with more films on the way, one of which is already completed and another already in post-production. All of those films potentially don’t make sense depending on the events that take place in an alternate version of a crossover event film. What if someone dies? What if someone lives? What if a dynamic changes? What if a special item is lost or found? The idea of releasing an alternate version of a key film in the timeline four years after the fact is world building suicide. After three years of campaigning, HBO was allowed to purchase the distribution rights to the Snyder cut of Justice League from Warner Brothers. HBO realized the cut was in fact garbage but knew that the public would pay to see it. So they paid Snyder to recut the film and are investing additional funds to do reshoots and additional CGI. The “new” Snyder cut will be available for HBO Max subscribers in 2021. That brings us to today.

 

SWBF 2 CoverI do believe in the power of the consumers. I believe that through diligence and organization we the people can accomplish great things. I often think back to Star Wars: Battlefront II and how the public demanded change and got it. Another example is the XBOX One and the always online announcement. So even though I absolutely don’t agree with them in this case, I respect the commitment shown by the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut people. Ultimately I’m disappointed by how this appears to be ending though.

Let me be clear in saying that while I respect their right to campaign, personally I’m 100% against this release the Snyder cut movement. I think it sets a terrible precedent for entertainment media. Especially for creators. If people can just decide that because they don’t like something it has to change then that means those who create have no say in the works they produce. We’ve already seen movements to recast actors in certain roles, fire directors, and reshoot entire seasons of shows. We’ve seen fan reedits of films and deep fakes removing/replacing actors in movies. This is not a good thing. People spend their lives trying to make things and people being able to just change them or say they don’t exist shouldn’t be considered a viable option. I’m fine with people not supporting something they don’t like. I encourage people to withhold their money and choose not to participate in games or movies they take issue with in order to vote with their wallet. But I do not support the idea of people being able to negate things that have already been produced. Movements should shape the future, not the past. If you were unhappy with the last three Star Wars films then you should let Disney know that by not paying to see the next one. This in turn will hopefully lead to the change you want to see in how the films are made. But no matter how unhappy you were with the films you should not be able to dictate that Daisy Ridley, Kelly Marie Tran, or John Boyega weren’t ever in Star Wars. Because that’s not true nor is it fair to those actors that spent their lives trying to make it as actors. They deserve recognition for the work they have done, even if you weren’t happy with it. As much as I hated The Last Jedi, I’d never argue that Rian Johnson’s name should be taken off the project.

Luke-and-Leia-in-Star-Wars-The-Last-JediI’m also a big stickler about canon. I like connected universes and intertwined plots. I like that some small detail revealed in one movie comes back and ultimately shapes the plot of another character’s movie much later. That sort of universe construction can’t work in a scenario where films can be changed or redone at the whim of the people. The alternative is badly produced one off films that sort of connect to each other based on recurring actors and names. Look at the X-Men cinematic universe as the best example of this. 10 movies that are sort of related, filled with plot holes, and almost no coherency or general direction. Plus two Deadpool films if you want to get technical. And most of those movies are carried more by Hugh Jackman’s acting and special effects than the quality of the writing or general interest in the other characters. Which is a tragedy considering how good the X-Men characters and stories from the comics and cartoon are. But that’s exactly what happens when you create a franchise of movies with no defined direction and change installments based on the whims of the people after the fact. And that’s still not as problematic for canon as rereleasing films a second time would be. How will canon be defined in the DCEU moving forward? Will the events of the original release still count or will changes in the Snyder cut be considered valid canon? Will people now be forced to watch multiple versions of the same movie and debate what counts moving forward? These are questions that no one seems to be asking. So no I am not in support of the Snyder cut.

Deadpool 2 XmenWhile I am absolutely not in support of the Snyder cut being released, I do support the idea of the people’s demands being met in response to their avid dedication to sticking to their demands. That’s why I am very unhappy with how this whole situation has ultimately turned out. The people who campaigned think they won, but in reality they’ve been conned. I’ve already been seeing people declare victory since the official HBO announcement of the Snyder cut release next year, but the truth is that they’re not actually getting what they demanded. We were told that a version of Justice League exists that was already completed by Zack Snyder. It was rumored that the producers didn’t like this cut. Because people didn’t like the Whedon cut, so they demanded the Snyder cut. But that demand was based on the understanding that such a cut of the film already exists. Yet that’s not what is being delivered. If such a cut really does exist, there’s no need to wait for 2021. They could release it today. Instead they’re investing millions of dollars to bring back the actors to do reshoots, adding CGI, and letting Snyder take another crack at cutting the film.

The Cake is a LieLet’s be very clear about what’s happening. Three years of criticism, debate, blog posts, and film reviews have been released stating what’s wrong with Justice League, a movie originally shot by Zack Snyder but credited to Whedon based on last minute edits and a few rumored reshoots. We’re not gonna get to see the Snyder cut. We’re gonna get to see the Snyder mulligan cut. He knows what made the people angry. He now knows what will make the people happy and what wouldn’t have worked in his cut. He’s being given the budget to reshoot and reedit vast sections of the movie. That movie better be damn great. And there’s no reason it shouldn’t be. But that’s not how movies are made. Any movie could be great the second time around. Imagine if J.J. Abrams could just redo Star Wars Episodes VII – IX. Imagine how much better they would be and how much more people would like them. That’s not real film making. Making a movie is about risk. It’s about reading the fanbase and trying to impress them while also trying to surprise them, without making them angry. If you already know exactly what makes them angry and what makes them happy, you can’t really mess up the movie. But that’s not an honest film making scenario. I would want to see the real Snyder cut. I assume it would be shit, but I’d watch it anyway. I don’t want to see Snyder get the easiest golden parachute film making scenario ever conceived so that people end up praising him even though his first two DCEU movies were at best OK and at worst hot garbage. But that’s exactly what’s going to happen.  The Snyder cut movement is getting conned into subscribing to HBO Max to not watch the movie they fought for 3 years to see. And they’re thankful for it. That’s really depressing. That level of blatant and out in the open manipulation pisses me off something fierce. The hashtag was #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, not #ReleaseTheSnyderReCut. These people didn’t win. At best they tied.

The thing that makes me really mad is that it appears that this whole movement isn’t over. I’m not surprised because I’ve already stated my fears for filmmaking moving forward, but it hasn’t even been a month and I’m already seeing new hashtags like #ReleaseTheAyerCut in reference to Suicide Squad. As if there’s some other version of that film that isn’t a dumpster fire. This is the problem with allowing post-release alternative versions of films. People will no longer accept any movie as is if they don’t like it. They will just assume they’re being lied to and that producers are snubbing directors from presenting their vision. I hope this whole line of reasoning ends here, but if it doesn’t the future of cinema, and arguably all plot based entertainment media, is in for hard times.

cropped-blog-logo.png
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Finally Finished The Witcher 2

In 2013, I was in a really weird place in my life. Maybe the lowest I’ve been since I graduated college. I was living in a shitty town in a shitty state making pizza in a bar with a dual degree from an Ivy League university. No this isn’t the story of another failed liberal arts degree student. This is a story about love. My girlfriend, now wife, was attending graduate school in a small town I’d never heard of and I moved there with her to support her financially. What I wasn’t aware of when I agreed to move there was that there were no real businesses in that town except bars. I didn’t own a car at the time because we had moved there from abroad. And even if I had owned a car, we lived in a college dorm, provided by her graduate program, that charged a fortune for parking so owning a car in that scenario wasn’t really an option anyway. So I got the only local job I could find, which ended up being making pizza in a bar. I worked long hours, weekends, and was paid very little. But I did it because you gotta do what you gotta do.

At the time I owned a SONY Vaio laptop that was three or four years old. I had used it during college and couldn’t afford to replace it so I continued using it as my only computer option. It was good enough for basic things but it couldn’t run most games other than older emulators and indie titles. Some of my followers may remember my failed attempts to stream via that laptop back in those days. I spent most of my time gaming on my PS4 and Wii U and usually streamed via my PS4 directly to Twitch. I also recorded a lot of footage and uploaded it after the fact. My laptop could handle this. It just took a really long time to process the videos.

2020-04-16_0205_1During this time, a friend recommended that I try a game called The Witcher. It was a PC game made in 2007 by some Polish developer I had never heard of. I didn’t know a thing about the game. Today that seems ridiculous to say, but this was before The Witcher 3 was really being talked about. In fact, it was like right before. If you followed the company and the franchise, then you probably already knew about it and were looking forward to playing it. But if you weren’t already into the franchise then, like me, you probably knew nothing about it. And I’m someone who’s usually pretty knowledgeable about upcoming games even when I’m not looking to play them myself. I wasn’t really interested in playing The Witcher but both it and The Witcher 2 were on sale on GOG for like $4 together so I bought them more to appease my friend than out of any actual interest.

As with most games I buy, I didn’t end up playing The Witcher as soon as I bought it. A few weeks or maybe even months went by. Then suddenly The Witcher 3 began its mainstream marketing run. This was actually one of the last games I remember seeing commercials for on cable, because this was the last time in my life that I regularly watched cable TV. The game looked amazing. We know now that it was/is, but at the time the ads were the thing that really sold me. But I’m the type of person that needs to play all the games in a franchise in order. So my desire to play The Witcher 3 finally pushed me to start The Witcher.

2020-04-23_0147_1Thankfully my old laptop could run The Witcher. This shouldn’t be surprising because the game came out about three years before my laptop. I would call The Witcher the best bad game I’ve ever played. It can only be described as some of the best writing I’ve ever seen in a game coupled with some of the worst gameplay I’ve ever forced myself to slog through to the end. It’s not even accurate to call it a great game so much as a great experience. I absolutely hated actually playing it but I couldn’t get enough of the story, characters, and world. So when I finished it, I immediately knew that I was gonna play The Witcher 3 and literally loaded up The Witcher 2 as soon as the credits finished rolling. This is where my troubles really began.

The Witcher was released in 2007 and my laptop from 2010 could run it with little issue. Even though it wasn’t a gaming laptop, the leaps forward in technology over that three year gap made an office laptop viable for playing an old game. The Witcher 2 on the other hand was released in 2011. While it wasn’t released that far after my laptop, it was a modern game with hefty graphics for the time. Sadly my SONY Vaio just couldn’t hack it. Even at the lowest settings, I was not able to run The Witcher 2 smoothly. I was so depressed that I couldn’t play that game. At this point I no longer owned an XBOX 360 and for some stupid reason that was the only console the game was available on. I could have went out and bought a used one but I refused to go back to a console that had already broken down and been replaced on four separate occasions before I finally gave the system up for good. That meant that my only option was getting a new PC.

2020-04-23_0054_2It was at this moment that I finally decided to build my own PC. I had known multiple people in college who had built their own gaming desktops but the prospect of doing that always scared me. It seemed too difficult, too expensive, and too risky. But I decided that was as good a time as any because I really wanted to play The Witcher 2. The Witcher 3 was a non-issue because I could get that on PS4 if I wanted to. But I had to play The Witcher 2 first. I never do anything small. If I’m gonna do something, I’m gonna take it seriously from start to finish. I wasn’t just gonna build an OK PC that could barely run The Witcher 2. I was gonna build a hefty system that could easily tackle running The Witcher 3. It ultimately took me three years of studying, saving, and planning before I finally built my gaming desktop. By that time I had left that shitty state (and country at this point), moved back abroad, and had landed a job in the PC hardware industry. My passion for playing The Witcher 2 in many ways led me to where I am now.

I got the PC built but rather than play The Witcher 2 right off the bat I, like many gamers, got distracted by other titles. So the game I had built my PC to play got pushed aside for a long time. I’ve played countless games on my PC since then. If you watch my streams then you know some of the much more advanced games I’ve played on PC such as Watch Dogs 1 & 2, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, DOOM, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, and the list goes on. I’m very happy with my PC and I’m proud of myself for the accomplishment it was to pay for and build it. But I didn’t actually end up starting The Witcher 2 till three years after it was built.

2020-05-10_2359_2Last month I finally started The Witcher 2, and last week I finally completed it. It took almost seven years of dedication to a single goal to reach this point. There were definitely distractions and roadblocks along the way, but I got here. It might not seem like the biggest accomplishment in the world, but to me it’s important. That’s why I felt it was necessary to document this moment here.

I committed to building a PC and playing The Witcher 2 in 2013. I finished The Witcher 2 on May 11th, 2020. And now I can finally play The Witcher 3. But I’ll probably put it off for like another three years because reasons.

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is Good but Riddled with Unjustified Flaws

Having now played Animal Crossing: New Horizons for 170 hours, I can say two things. The first is that the game is a depth defying evolution of the concept since the original game released on the Gamecube almost 20 years ago. It’s accessible, simple, and addictive while not taking advantage of any of the predatory microtransactions Nintendo could absolutely get away with. It’s complicated enough to hold the attention of adults, both causal and serious gamers, while also being simple enough to be played and enjoyed by children. While it is not the best game ever made, it may be the most Nintendo game ever made in the last two generations or more of Nintendo consoles. The second thing I can say is that the game is riddled with quality of life problems. Not glitches or coding errors, but intentional problems that ultimately hurt the gameplay experience.

I have been absolutely floored by some of the island designs I’ve seen posted online. People have accomplished things that I couldn’t even imagine. The amount of things you can actually accomplish/build in Animal Crossing: New Horizons is insane. Yet my island still looks like garbage. One could argue that my island looks like garbage because I simply lack creativity, but I don’t agree with that statement. Now I’m not saying that I’m as visually creative as everyone else. I’m a writer by trade so visual design isn’t really my strong suit. But I do have plenty of ideas and a vision for my own epic island design. And I’m happy to acknowledge that the chances of the design I have in my head, or reference notes after I took the time to draw and plot out everything I wanted to do on paper, probably isn’t as impressive as many of the things that I’ve seen go viral online. But at the very least my island wouldn’t look like garbage if my vision could be realized. The problem is that at every turn the game goes out of its way to arbitrarily limit my ability to create my own vision. And again none of these limitations are due to glitches. They are intentional design flaws that can easily be fixed, but simply won’t be because Nintendo gonna Nintendo.

Landscaping and Island design isn’t the only place where the game has monumentally inconvenient limitations that are easily fixed but simply won’t be because reasons. There are a host of quality of life issues that simply don’t need to be present in the game.  So for this week’s post I wanted to go over my top 15 complaints about Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This is not an exhaustive list; and I’m sure some people will disagree with some of the things mentioned. But I believe every one of these issues could easily be patched out and would make the gameplay experience better for a majority of players. Better being defined as giving players the ability to maximize their own personal enjoyment and/or creative freedom. List is in no particular order.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 16-14-19

1. No Natural Island Features Should be Permanent

When you first start the game, you are asked to pick an island layout. If like me, you started the game on day one with little to no prior knowledge or plans in the works, then you chose a layout that seemed the most convenient at the time without knowing exactly what you were committing to. My island’s natural layout has been a nightmare for pretty much my entire time playing the game. It of course started with house placement. I knew exactly where I wanted my house to go when I first looked at the map layouts. That has never changed. What I didn’t know going into the game was that I wouldn’t be able to reach the location I wanted for my house until much later into the game. I thought I would be able to get the vaulting pole and ladder from the start and place my house exactly where I wanted it. Instead I was forced to put it in the complete opposite side of the island from where I wanted it because not only did I want my house on a mountain, but I also wanted an island with a single continuous river that went from end to end, locking me to only about 40% of my island’s total land for the opening portion of the game. As you can imagine, this was very annoying. But I was OK with it because I knew eventually I would be able to move my house and even reshape my river, if I wanted to.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 16-19-21Eventually I was finally able to reshape the land and the water, while also having the tools to go wherever I wanted. By the time I unlocked K.K. Slider (about 110 hours in), I finally had an established vision for what I wanted my island to look like. I set out to complete this task only to then realize my plan wasn’t possible because my river inlets from the ocean weren’t located in the right places. This cannot be altered, which I wasn’t aware of when I devised my grand plan. You’re simply stuck with the river to ocean connections you have. Now yes I could technically build my own rivers from scratch and just not connect them to the ocean at all. But that’s not really what I wanted. Furthermore, one of my inlets is located too high on my map which blocks me from having the perfect cliffs I wanted.

Along with the river mouths, you also have to contend with beaches and even worse beach stone. These black rocks eat up the sides and corners of your map for literally no reason and prevent you from having perfectly square edges to your cliffs. Some may also refer to them as OCD stone. Why Nintendo decided to make all these physical features permanent is beyond me. What I do know is that not only have they dashed my island landscaping dreams multiple times, but they also cost me so many hours of hard work because I had to alter several map units of land to account for them. This entire issue is stupid and shouldn’t be a thing. Just let me redesign my island however I want once I’ve reached the landscaping portion of the game.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 18-00-51

2. The Game Needs Mass/Rapid Landscaping Options

Being able to reshape land and water is extremely convenient. It’s one of my favorite aspects of the game. Even with the many limits it has to it, the fact that you can reform cliffs and rivers to create the landscape you want (mostly) allows for every island to be truly original. That being said, the process of landscaping is one of the most tedious and troublesome endeavors I’ve ever experienced in a Nintendo game. You have to manually shape each block unit of land in the game one at a time. It is appalling that there isn’t a Mario Maker style landscape editing mode where you can just build entire sections of cliff and water in a few seconds. I have spent literal weeks trying to build, and rebuild, the cliff structure I wanted. And this doesn’t include all the time I’ve had to spend moving around trees and flowers to do it.  I wouldn’t even mind having to pay a bells fee to do it. I just don’t want to have to spend hours to build a cliff after I’ve already taken the time to clear all the land. The cliff should be the easy part. And joy-con drift never angered me so much as it does while trying to landscape in this game. The game already has a unit based map. Allowing the player to draw cliff or water on it quickly rather than unit by unit landscaping would be an easy thing to implement.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 18-02-34

3. Build and Destroy Landscaping Functions Should be Separate Buttons

In order to keep the coding simplistic, Animal Crossing: New Horizons throws all landscaping functions into two buttons. You select what kind of landscaping you want to do by pressing the plus button and then the A button to make a selection. Then you use the A button to interact with the unit of land directly in front of you, assuming your joy-con doesn’t drift. If the landscaping selection you currently have active isn’t on the unit in front of you, the A button adds it. If the active landscaping selection is on the unit in front of you, the A button removes it. While simple in practice, this causes a lot of problems. Again, many of them are the result of joy-con drift. Often you end up removing land when you intended to add it. Or adding water when you intended to remove it. And vice versa. This could easily be remedied by dedicating the A button to adding landscaping options and a different button being dedicated for removing landscaping selections. Of course this would only be the case while the landscaping app is active. Having this function would save users so much time by not having them make unintentional landscaping mistakes throughout the entire process of terraforming their islands.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 18-05-37

4. Why Can’t I Build Giant Walls?

I have absolutely no idea why you can’t build two story cliffs, but it’s one of the most irritating limitations the game has. For some reason you can’t build a cliff on top of a cliff. You have to leave a space of at least one unit between the first level cliff and the second level cliff. So instead of building high cliffs you end up with big two step stairs. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say the reason for this probably has to do with the incline limitations, which I will get to. You can’t make two story inclines, so building two story cliffs would prevent you from being able to access the tops of them. But I don’t see why that’s a problem because if  I’m building a two story cliff then clearly I don’t want it to be climbed to begin with. Also, couldn’t’ the ladder just extend if it was really an issue that needed solving? Not only is this issue visually troublesome, but it also wastes a lot of real estate. You only have so much land. Having to waste the outer edges one unit in all directions is quite a loss of total available land.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 17-12-48

5. Inclines Have So Much Wasted Potential

The only way to reach a higher level without a ladder is an incline. This is fine. Even the process of adding inclines for a fee is fine. What isn’t fine is all the things inclines should be able to do but can’t. First, inclines are locked to one cliff unit up and two ground units wide. Inclines are extremely useful but they could do so much more. You can’t build them adjacent to each other either vertically or horizontally.  They need a gap of at least one space. So if you wanted to make a two story cliff with an incline it would have an annoying one unit step between the two inclines. You also can’t build them side by side. Meaning you can’t build hills or epic continuous grand entrances.

You also can’t repave or plant flowers on inclines. Meaning if, like me, you wanted to use floor paths to build long “roads” that went up cliffs, you would not be able to fully coordinate their colors because inclines can’t be customized past picking from a limited selection of incline designs. The inability to plant flowers on them also means you can’t have continuous flower paths for your “roads” that go up cliffs either. While some of this may be a lot of trouble to remedy, much of it shouldn’t have been part of the game to begin with. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to install adjacent inclines and bridges.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 18-08-51

6. Construction Delays Progress so Much

Construction projects are a sensible idea. Moving buildings and adding/removing inclines being a bit more special so you aren’t constantly changing everything on your island makes you appreciate your decisions more. Having to pay for them does this adequately. But making me have to wait for the day to flip and only allowing me to move one building and one incline/bridge a day is such a waste of time. If I’m trying to reshape my entire island after acquiring the landscaping license, I shouldn’t have to wait a day to move each house on my island. I shouldn’t have to wait a day to demolish or move each bridge/incline I built in the early game while just trying to access more of the land and amass resources. It’s no wonder why some players, myself not included, use time travel. So much progress is stopped by limiting construction projects to one of each type a day. Just charge me express work fees and let me do everything in the same day. At the very least let me reshape the island in mass at least once after unlocking the landscaping license. Because obviously most players wouldn’t have put things where they are if they had had full access to all the tools and landscaping abilities you eventually get from the start.

Also, it’s completely ridiculous that you have to pay twice to change the surrounding landscape of a building or incline. I had my house in the perfect spot the first time I moved it. But I did not yet have landscaping abilities. Once I unlocked them, I wanted my house in the same general spot, but moved over three units and on top of a cliff. Doing this required moving my house to a completely different location by paying a fee of 30K bells and waiting a day for construction, then reshaping the land where I wanted my house, paying another fee of 30K bells, and waiting another day for construction. This sort of process was required for four of my islanders’ homes as well, ultimately costing me 460,000 bells and 10 days of waiting. The process should not have been that long, that expensive, or that troublesome.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 18-11-12

7. Housing Development Shouldn’t Be Limited

You can expand your house’s interior by paying off loans. This is fine. The prices may seem a little high but once you start playing the stalk market “correctly” money becomes almost a non-issue once you get past your initial landscaping costs. But there’s a limit to how big your house can be. In reality, this makes sense. But this is a video game. Why can’t I just keep expanding my house indefinitely? Or at least past the point of realistic practicality. You can only have a maximum of six total rooms in your house. You can’t control or expand the size of them and their dimensions are kind of inconvenient as well. Why can’t I just pay more bells to expand these rooms or add additional ones? If I want a living room, a kitchen, a bathroom, a workshop, a gameroom, a bedroom, and a guest room, why can’t I? I have plenty of bells. So just let me keep expanding. And let me keep expanding storage as well. You can get up to 1600 storage spots by the time you fully upgrade your house. But why place a limit at all? Just let me keep paying a flat rate of bells to expand my storage indefinitely. Why does it matter?

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 18-12-55

8. Why Can’t I Stack Items Based on Space?

Certain items can have other items placed on them such as tables, chairs, and rugs. But then other items can’t even if there’s enough space to do so. For instance, the wooden speakers. This stereo system is quite big and it looks cool. But it takes up a lot of room. The top of it has enough surface area to act as a table or stand. So why can’t I put things on top of it such as potted plants or trophies? That’s something a person would actually do in real life. Yet because the game doesn’t designate it as a piece of stacking furniture, you aren’t allowed to do this. You can’t even put things on beds. So much space is wasted in an already limited space environment.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 18-12-11

9. Just Let Me Store Turnips For Goodness Sake

Once a week you find yourself having to store turnips in the most inconvenient of places. First I was storing them all over my house. Every open space of my floor would be covered in turnips. I wasn’t even decorating my basement because I needed the storage space. Then, like many other players, I took to building an outdoor storage area for them. This is more convenient in many ways, but it’s also a complete waste of real estate. Having to essentially sacrifice a large piece of land to store your turnips every week is an unnecessary inconvenience that adds no enjoyment to the game. Either let me store them in the storage or raise the single item volume considerably. I buy 16K turnips a week. That’s 160 item slots to store. That’s a ton of wasted real estate. And sure you don’t have to buy turnips every week, and certainly not in those large quantities. But in the weeks that you do, you need that space available so it makes more sense just to leave it open rather than build on it at all.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 18-14-29

10. Why Can’t I Turn the Camera When Outside my House?

The camera in Animal Crossing: New Horizons can be quite troublesome. You often can’t see things behind buildings and trees. But there are often important things there such as dig spots and bugs. You can turn the camera in the house just fine. In fact, it’s very convenient. But you can’t do this when outside your house and I can’t think of a single justifiable reason for this.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 18-15-30

11. Add a Fossil Record to the Museum

In the game, you have a phone that catalogues every fish and bug you’ve caught and whether or not you have donated them to the museum. Why the same is not true for the fossils is beyond me. I don’t even need a fossil record on my phone. Just put it in the damn museum, like literally any real museum would have. Finishing the fossil collection, which I finally managed to do by trading in the fossil market on Discord, is such a hassle because you literally don’t know how many or which fossils you’re missing without looking it up online. Even when you do try to look it up, it’s still fairly unclear what you’re actually missing because you have to manually walk the museum and try to figure it out. Just add a damn fossil list to the museum so it’s like an actual museum.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 18-17-36

12. Let Me Mass Buy Clothing in the Fitting Room

The fitting room in the Able Sisters clothing store is really nice. It’s exactly what you want when trying to decide which clothes to buy. But damn if it isn’t the most inconvenient thing in the world when trying to buy multiple colors of the same piece of clothing. If an item comes in multiple colors and I want more than one, why can’t I just buy all the colors I want at once? Making me have to pay, then exit the fitting room, then reenter the fitting room, find the item again, and pay again is completely unnecessary. Just let me buy as many items as I want at once.

Also, let me know which items I already own. The crafting table tells you what items you already have in your pockets and in storage. Why doesn’t the fitting room do the same?

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 18-20-44

13. Why Do the Store’s Close?

I work a full time job. I am not alone. I have to commute to my job. I am not alone. I can’t use my Switch at work. I am not alone. Nook’s Cranny doesn’t open until 8 AM and closes at 10 PM. This means that anyone who has to leave for work before 8 AM can’t sell things they are carrying from the night before and can’t check the morning prices of turnips, much less take advantage of them. Anyone who works late can’t purchase or sell anything at Nook’s Cranny either. There are days where I have to leave for work before 8 AM and don’t get home till almost 8 PM. Then I have other responsibilities like cooking dinner and walking my dog. That makes the operating hours of Nook’s Cranny very difficult for me. And I don’t even have children. But one must ask why does the store close at all? This isn’t real life. They don’t need to sleep. Tom Nook and Isabelle never close the Residential Services office. So what’s the deal with Tom’s nephews? The store should definitely reset every day like the calendar does with new announcements. And if for the sake of balance you wanted to argue that the turnip purchasing time should still be locked to specific hours of day, I could understand an argument for that. But the store closing is unnecessary.  Or at the very least remove the fees for using the box to sell items. I don’t mind waiting till the next morning to get my funds in the mail. That’s a realistic mechanic I guess.

Don’t even get me started on the Able Sisters shop. Why does it close an hour earlier than Nook’s Cranny? What is the justification for that? Realistically you only need to visit it once a day, assuming you aren’t strapped for bells, in order to do all your business there. But it’s still the same issue of availability. If someone isn’t able to get to their Switch between the hours of 8 AM and 9 PM, then when do they get to purchase and design new clothing items? The game may be geared towards kids, but adults play it. If the shops have to be open for limited hours, at least let the player set those hours for their island. Maybe the employees sleep during the day and work through the night.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 18-22-18

14. Why Doesn’t my Nook Phone Have a Debit Function?

I have a bank account and a smart phone. That is literally all a person needs to make purchases without carrying cash. So why can’t I purchase things from shops without the cash in hand? Just let me pull the funds needed directly from my bank account. Not for Daisy and NPC purchases, because that wouldn’t be realistic or practical. Though Zelle is a thing. But if I want to buy a chessboard from Nook’s Cranny with 3 million bells in the bank but not 95,000 bells in my pocket just let me purchase it with funds directly from my bank account so I don’t have to run to Resident Services, access the bank account, withdrawal the funds, and then run all the way back to Nook’s Cranny.

While we’re at it, let players access their bank accounts from other islands. Not their storage because that would be unrealistic. But as with my digital purchases argument, the technology is already there. The entire purposes of bank accounts is so you can access your funds anywhere that has an ATM. Every island has an ATM so let players pull bells from the Resident Services on any island.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 18-26-19

15. Add a Dynamic DIY Vendor

Much of the game is built around the idea of interacting with NPCs and the environment to get new recipes. Characters like Celeste are key to making the most out of your crafting experience. But in my opinion there are serious issues with the volume of DIY recipes acquired as well as the ability to get the ones you want. I find it very irritating when I’m trying to complete a seasonal set like the bamboo collection and I get drops of repeat bamboo recipes before I’ve even finished the collection. That forces players to have to try to deal with the market and convince other players to trade them the recipes they want/are missing because the game itself doesn’t seem to be providing them.

While I won’t outright say you should just be able to buy every recipe in the game whenever you want, I do believe there should be a constant stream of DIY vending that takes bells or even Nook Miles. Technically the game kind of has this at Resident Services, but the list of available recipes is fixed. That shouldn’t be the case. As with the Nook Shopping service, the DIY choices should be changing daily. Like with turnip prices, it should be completely random with some days giving you repeats or junk recipes while other days can include super rare ones. Every day players should have the ability to acquire at least one new recipe no matter how much time they put in. This also makes every day seem eventful in some way even when nothing particularly special is otherwise going on.

Animal Crossing New Horizons Screenshot 2020-05-06 18-28-28

So there are my 15 biggest complaints about Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I want to clarify that I love the game. I have played it literally every day since it released. I have never time traveled and I take my progress in the game very seriously. I play the stalk market like a pro and have great aspirations for my island and its residents. But the game is severely lacking in a number of quality of life features that would make the experience of playing the game way more convenient and fulfilling. The game is by no means bad, but it could be considerably better.

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Focus on the Objective

If you’ve been following me for a while then you know I don’t really like shooters and I tend to hate PVP games. Especially those with no story based campaign. To this day I can proudly say that I have never played a single match of Fortnite. While I enjoy the art style and quirkiness, I absolutely loathe the Overwatch model. These games simply aren’t for me. So when I was invited to try the closed alpha for Rogue Company I went in assuming that I would dislike it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this wasn’t the case.

I don’t want to write a full review of this alpha. Not only was/is it under an NDA, but it was also very limited in what was available so writing a full review at this point would most likely do the game more harm than good in a way that won’t necessarily be beneficial to consumers. What I will say is that the game blends a number of different styles together in order to make a very satisfying gameplay experience. It has the single life mechanic of a battle royale game coupled with the condensed maps and team mechanics of Overwatch. This is done in a first to five rounds won model. The two modes available in the alpha were 3v3 fights to the death and 4v4 objective matches. I enjoyed both modes. The pacing is very fast with single life elimination. The gameplay, though flawed mechanically in certain ways, is very well balanced and accessible to amateur players. The best way to describe it is the weapons are balanced in a way where the amateur shooting first isn’t automatically going to get creamed by the more experienced player like you see in so many other shooters.  The in game money system that allows you to upgrade between rounds worked fairly well and added a layer of depth to the game that I think harkens back to CS GO but in a more refined form. I have to say that it’s the first team based round by round shooter with no story that I’ve ever actually enjoyed playing.

Dark Souls 3 Screenshot 2020-03-14 12-57-00I spent most of my time playing the objective mode in the alpha. This was much simpler than Overwatch’s objective mode. It’s just a bomb in the center that you have to reach before the other team and hack with a single button held for about four seconds. Once the bomb is hacked you have to defend it for 60 seconds. The other team can re-hack the bomb and claim it for themselves. The same rules apply afterwards. Hold it for 60 seconds to win the round. The “problem” with this mode is that when combined with the single elimination mechanics it devolves into killing the four guys on the other team first equals a win. You can win the round by completing the objective, which takes the time to reach the bomb plus the time to hack the bomb plus the 60 seconds defending the bomb. This is how the mode was actually meant to be played. But you can also just kill the opposing team’s four members in a fraction of the time, if your team is better, and net the same results i.e. a victory for that round. As you can imagine, once people caught wind of this they stopped caring about the objective entirely.

I’m one of those people that actually care about the objective. That’s why I play(ed) the objective mode as opposed to the team kill mode. When I first started playing, I was misled into believing I was playing with people but was actually in the bot mode. I had so much fun. Not because the bots were easier but because they were playing for the objective. Rather than just going for kills, the bots had been programmed to play as if completing the objective was the only way to win. This made for a much more interesting and varied gameplay experience because while killing the opposition mattered and happened, it wasn’t the main focus of each round. Both sides played for the objective as their main concern. This shaped the way they approached the map and the firefights. Once I started playing with actual people, I quickly started to enjoy the game less. This was because human players didn’t care about the objective.

Dark Souls 3 Screenshot 2020-03-15 00-39-35Playing Rogue Company’s objective mode, and so many other shooters with objectives I’ve tried, with humans always ends up being the same garbage experience. This is because everyone except me always seems to think they’re playing slayer mode and just ignores the objective. This makes sense when you look at the framework for how these types of games work though. Notice that people who play shooters rarely discuss wins. Have you ever noticed that before? No one ever describes their win percentage when talking about how good they are at shooters. The talk about their K/D ratio. In a way this makes a lot of sense. K/D ratio is more effective at describing an individual player’s skills in the game while wins accounts for a number of external factors that aren’t all related to the individual player’s performance. You can be the best in the world but if you’re playing a team based game against the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th best in the world and the other members of your team are crap then you probably still won’t win the match. Also, even when you do get a good team, the map layout usually gives one team the advantage. In Rogue Company, the objective location changes each round but it’s always to a particular spot from a preset list of locations on the map. These spawn points absolutely deal an advantage to one team over the other and I could see no formula for how these spawns were decided. Some matches my team got the advantage multiple times over and other matches the other team got the advantage more often than we did. It was random and yet clearly gave an advantage to a particular team. Factors like this play a huge role in determining why K/D seems to matter more than win percentage to most committed players of shooters.

KD Ratio meme

Another huge factor in why players tend to ignore the objective is the rewards system in these games. Rogue Company, like most shooters of this sort, has player levels. You amass experience based on your accomplishments and that experience levels up your account. Leveling up presumably has some benefit, but as this was an alpha, I don’t know what the particular benefits will be in this particular game. I assume it will be similar to most other shooters by being a mix of cosmetic options, avatars, and titles. There is of course always the prestige of having a higher level as well. Experience is given based on accomplishments but kills always net more than completing the objective in these games. Completing the objective may be the stated purpose of the game but the experience points given to the individual player for completing the objective never compares to racking up kills. So if you’re a player that cares about leveling up your account, it is the objectively correct decision to focus on getting more kills rather than completing the objective. Again acknowledging the fact that killing off the other team will get you a win even if you ignore the objective completely.

Ignoring the objective becomes the standard of play because it’s always profitable. This is so common that playing for the objective becomes a taboo. This was definitely the case in Rogue Company. As I said, I play for the objective. It’s what I like to do. It’s the reason I play that mode in these types of games in the rare instances that I do play them. I was criticized multiple times during the alpha for trying to prioritize the objective. People would take the time to jump on their mics or text chat to tell me to stop going for the objective and just focus on killing. That angered me, but I understood their reasoning behind it. The truth is that by being the only person on the map playing for the objective, I tended to die first fairly often. But let’s unpack that a bit. Seven of eight players on a map ignoring the objective and one playing for the objective and getting criticized for it should not be seen as acceptable from a game design standpoint. Why even make an objective mode if 87% of players are just going to ignore it anyway? Because there are simply too few players like me who will risk victory for love of the game. What should have happened was not that my three team mates criticized me for pursuing the objective but instead cover my ass so that I can get the objective before the other team does. That’s the intended way to play. But it’s not the common way people play.

greed is goodIt’s very telling when you look at the scorecards from the matches I played. It was extremely common to see something like me with the lowest score on my team but with the most objective completions while the person with highest score on my team would have zero objective completions but the most kills. It’s no wonder most players ignore the objective and I can’t blame them for that. But this, in my opinion, should be considered bad game design. Yes the gameplay loop is fun. Yes the combat is balanced. Yes the round to round character development system is well made. But if more than 2/3 of your players are flat out ignoring the gameplay methodology you’ve built into the mode then it’s a badly designed mode. And that’s not a knock against Rogue Company specifically. That’s a criticism of all these shooters. Because they all tend to have this same issue. So my question is how do “we” fix this?

There has to be a way for a developer to create an objective mode in a shooter that has a fulfilling gameplay loop, meaningful objectives, and encourages people to actively prioritize completing the objective(s) over mindlessly killing the other team regardless of the objective being completed. I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know if it’s already been done, because I don’t play every shooter. But I do know that this is something that I’ve never witnessed before.

Overwatch-XP-ScreenI’ve got some ideas. Maybe completing the objective should net the individual player way more points. Like 10x that of a single kill. Or maybe the game shouldn’t let anyone get killed permanently until the objective is completed. Or maybe if the round is ended without the objective being completed everyone gets zero points or at least severely reduced points. I don’t know the answer but I do believe there’s a way to make a meaningful objective mode in a team based shooter where people on both teams actively care about the objective more than getting kills. But then we have to ask the question does it matter?

If 87% of players will happily ignore the objective in a game, maybe the answer is to stop building objective modes in these games. Clearly people don’t care about them. But is it that they simply aren’t made to be meaningful enough or that most players genuinely don’t want them but play in that mode for some other reason. Maybe they prefer the maps for example. In Rogue Company the objective mode maps were much more interesting than the one straight slayer map that was available. There is a risk that making an objective mode where players have to actually play for the objective could backfire on the developer. People might say they don’t like actually having to take the objective seriously and ultimately not play the mode. This is a real risk to be considered. But I believe that there’s a way to do it successfully. I believe that players will change their conduct when motivated to do so in an effective and meaningful way.

Rainbow-6-SiegeI don’t know if what I’m looking for in a team based shooter already exists. It may have been here for years and I just don’t know about it because of how rarely I play shooters. Maybe that’s exactly what Rainbow Six Siege is and I just don’t know about it. In any case, I want a team based shooter with Rogue Company’s fast paced gameplay loop with an objective mode that actively motivates players to take the objective seriously. Until then I’ll probably keep ignoring team based shooters with no story mode.

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Let’s Take a Backlog Year

When I was a kid there were no backlogs. Games were released very sparingly with maybe one to two new releases every two to three months at best. And many of those releases were skippable. Holiday season was the time when the good games dropped. I still remember waiting for Christmas to get The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (November 1998). This was a time when replaying games was not just common but the norm. There simply weren’t enough games to play. Not to mention that games were more expensive.

When I say more expensive what I really mean is that the prices didn’t drop. It’s fairly common to see a new release drop from $60 to $30 or less within a few months today. With the exception of Nintendo, it’s pretty much the norm. I bought Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order a month after it released for $16 in a holiday sale. Worth every penny and then some, by the way. We didn’t have those price drops when I was a kid. Games simply were the price they were. We also didn’t have weekly free games on Epic Game Store, monthly free games on PlayStation Plus, and so on. You bought or borrowed every game you played, the prices weren’t discounted much if at all, and there weren’t a ton of games to play. This meant that you were usually caught up on games you actually wanted to play, assuming you had the money or friends to borrow games from. It’s not like that anymore.

Epic Free GamesI often feel like we as gamers have become spoiled when it comes to the volume of games available to us these days. There are just so many great games to play releasing so often now. In 2020 we get Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Doom Eternal, Cyberpunk 2077, Nioh 2, Ghost of Tsushima, The Last of Us Part 2, Marvel’s Avengers, Watch Dogs: Legion, God & Monsters, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms XIV. That’s just 12 of the many AAA titles releasing this year. We can also be sure that most of them will either have additional content added or will take hundreds of hours to play at a minimum. Then there’s the many remakes/remasters coming as well such as Final Fantasy VII, The Wonderful 101, Resident Evil 3, and so on. We have well over one knock out game a month. There’s enough content to get every normal gamer through the year with games to spare.

ghost of tsushima
Cannot wait!

Not only are there plenty of new games to play this year but there are also all the games we still haven’t gotten to play. When I was a kid, we were waiting for the next release. “I have nothing to play” was a literal statement of fact. Not a metaphorical statement of preference based irony. I haven’t had nothing to play in a good 10 years. My backlog is so preposterous that I know I will never actually complete it. I have unplayed copies of Final Fantasy XV, World of Final Fantasy, The Surge, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening Remake, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor & War, The Witcher 2 & 3, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and countless other AAA titles sitting in my backlog with the intention of playing them. And that doesn’t even account for the fact that my Black Friday/Christmas sale purchases from 2019 just arrived at the end of February adding all of this to my already preposterous backlog. That is to say that I have well over one AAA game a month at my disposal for the next several years without ever buying another game. And remember that this doesn’t include the countless indies I have and would like to play, doesn’t include the various freebies from Epic Game Store and PlayStation Plus, when I don’t already own them (looking at your Shadows of the Colossus and Sonic Forces) and doesn’t account for all the retro ports I never beat as a kid and would like to play available on Nintendo Switch Online.

 

PS Plus March 2020My backlog is quite large, but it’s not abnormal. I don’t know any gamers that aren’t backlogged. Pretty much every person I know that considers them self a gamer has accepted the fact that they will always be backlogged. Backlogs are like the US national debt. We as people have simply accepted it as part of life and though we may complain about it constantly we have no intention or putting in any serious effort or life changes to reduce it by a noticeable amount. Being a gamer means you simply are backlogged as a natural state of being these days. I believe that this is the first time in gaming history that we’re in a position where the industry can take advantage of that fact.

Let me preface the rest of this post by acknowledging that what I’m about to write is never going to happen. I’m aware of that fact. I have no delusions about the fact that this idea, though good and productive for all parties involved, goes against the status quo and would never actually happen. But I think it’s important to put it out there anyway.

Rainbow-6-Siege
Rainbow Six Siege

As I said, games used to be in limited supply and expensive. The prices couldn’t drop in order for larger publishers to remain profitable because they had a limited number of products and no additional revenue streams. Now we’re in the completely opposite situation. Not only are there so many games to play, but those games continue to be relevant with additional content for multiple years in the case of some games. Rainbow Six Siege is four years old and just broke its concurrent player record on Steam. Games last way longer now and have tons of additional revenue streams with things like DLC, expansions, microtransactions, and e-sports revenue. What this actually means is that a company can put out a game and continue to support that game for a long time and remain profitable without releasing a new game for quite some time. What if that became normal practice?

 

cyberpunk-2077
You can wait . . . unless coronavirus destroys the world.

People often complain about games getting delayed, such as Cyberpunk 2077, but there’s not really a valid reason to complain about those delays. As I’ve said, everyone is backlogged. You don’t need to play Cyberpunk 2077 today. You’ve almost assuredly got something else to play that you haven’t already beaten. You can also lean into online multiplayer in many games if you have absolutely no backlog to speak of, which is ridiculous. There are also plenty of free and older discounted games to take advantage of during the wait for a new release. Delays also mean a game gets more of its bugs worked out before launch. It means less patches required day one. It means less crunch time for the developers. There are lots of good things that come out of delays with very few bad things, unless a project ultimately gets cancelled because of a delay, such as with Scalebound (never forget). So generally I don’t have a problem with delays. So why don’t companies leverage all the time they need to get a game right from launch like they used to? I’m tired of large day one patches, broken games that need to be fully updated, and hearing about developers getting worked to death to make an arbitrary deadline. It’s simply not necessary when people can fill the time. Especially when you’re a company like Ubisoft where people can fill the time with other games already published by Ubisoft. Personally I’m nearing the end of Watch Dogs 2 and still need to play Assassin’s Creed: Origins & Odyssey. So the fact that Watch Dogs: Legion got delayed doesn’t faze me in the slightest bit. If anything it helps me.

Watch Dogs 2 Screenshot 2020.02.16 - 13.42.33.77
Finished Watch Dogs 2 just after writing this.

When you look at this year’s AAA lineup you can see a large amount of corporate representation. Just about every large publisher is putting out something noteworthy this year. And most of these will be long form games with DLC, games as service content, and or plenty of base content. So why do any of them need to release another big game in 2021? What if instead every publisher agreed to make 2021 a development year? All studios will not publish any games and will instead allow all developers to work without a 2021 deadline so they maximize the performance of their games that would have released in 2021. Why isn’t that a thing? All larger players agreeing to periodically take a year off releasing and just ride their current revenue streams, allowing studios more time and gamers a year to focus on their backlogs. This is the first time in history that taking a year off publishing new titles won’t break the larger players. With so many additional revenue streams available now, they don’t need to release new games as often as they do and can still remain profitable.

2020 releasesImagine what you could get done if you had an entire year where you were guaranteed that you wouldn’t miss out on any new games. How would that make you feel? What would you do with that time? You’d finally put some real work into your backlog. You’d revisit games you wish you had time to revisit. It could be a super productive time for many gamers. And people could save money for the next year of games.

Now obviously everyone wouldn’t care for this. Indie studios that can barely keep their doors open couldn’t take a year off like this and shouldn’t. Streamers that focus on new games at release would be starved for content, which isn’t really a concern of mine but it is something that should be acknowledged. Also let’s not forget that the PS5 and XBOX Series X are scheduled to release at the very end of 2020 so them not releasing any games in 2021 specifically is a tall order. But that’s a specific situation that doesn’t happen every year. So focus on the concept rather than the specific dates.

XBOX Series XAgain, this won’t happen. Too many powerful people would complain too much about a year off with no additional revenue streams being added to the mix. And too many whiny gamers that don’t want to work on their backlog would take to the internet with change.org petitions and angry Reddit posts. Changing the status quo is hard. Changing the status quo when it will reduce profits, even if only temporarily, is nearly impossible. But I think it’s important to note that for the first time in history, such a thing could be comfortably implemented without a required lapse in total gameplay hours for consumers and without AAA game companies having to suffer real losses from not releasing for a year. The only scenario where a company really loses is if they were already gold and ready to launch because that would mean idle time for that studio where no work is actually getting done. But something as radical as an entire year devoted to backlog play would be coordinated in advance so studios shouldn’t end up in that situation in most cases.

Deserve a VacationI think the idea of granting a year of gaming furlough to both consumers and developers would be a good thing. I think there would be many positive benefits to it, including the fact that gamers would be that much more appreciative of new games after having to wait an additional year to play them. People wouldn’t be nearly as critical when they spent a year playing only older games.

What would you do with a backlog year? Would you be able to keep yourself occupied or would you have absolutely nothing to play? Would you appreciate the time to catch up with older stuff and save money or is it a non-issue for you?

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

E3 is Knocking on Heaven’s Door

It’s no secret that I’ve been over E3 for quite a few years now. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while then you know I think it’s an outdated media event that does little in service of both the consumers and the companies presenting that couldn’t be done in much more efficient and cost effective ways. I also see the idea of praising media personalities with a weeklong party where they pretend to work while critiquing hard working devs based on a couple images often released years in advance is preposterous. So I’m fine with the event pretty much dying off and have said as much many times. It seems Sony is in agreement with me because now for the second year in a row they have announced that they will not be attending the show.

Let’s be very clear about something, right off the bat. Neither Sony or Nintendo needs E3. To say otherwise is either willful ignorance or a bold faced lie. E3 needs Sony and Nintendo. Yes there are other companies outside of the big 3 that present at E3. EA, Ubisoft, Devolver Digital, and others all present and that definitely matters. In fact, it’s safe to say that, just like last year, even though Sony wasn’t officially at E3 they still attended. The number of games that were presented at E3 2019 that will ultimately release on PlayStation hardware was more than enough to say that PlayStation users/fans were given plenty of reason to continue being happy as PS4 owners. So it’s more accurate to say that Sony not attending gets most of the benefits of E3 but none of the hassle and expenses. It’s kind of like how Kleenex is a brand but everyone just refers to all tissues as Kleenex at this point because the brand name has become synonymous with small squares of soft white paper for blowing your nose. PlayStation simply is part of console gaming DNA at this point so even if they don’t formally attend every game not specifically locked to XBOX consoles will almost always end up on a PlayStation console as well. Unless of course it’s a Nintendo exclusive. So from a business standpoint Sony doesn’t really need to be at E3.

Sony and E3 BreakUpI have been really happy with Sony’s continued support of the State of Play series. Similar to Nintendo with Directs, I think this is the future of gaming announcements. I still remember when Reggie Fils-Aimé said at E3 some years back that the purpose of moving over to the Nintendo Direct system as opposed to doing formal presentations at E3 was in order to reach a broader audience of Nintendo users around the world in a more direct and accessible way. I agreed with this statement so much and that’s even more so the case having now lived outside the United States for more than five years. The Nintendo Direct system is way better for the millions of gamers who aren’t fluent in English and/or don’t live in North America. Seeing Sony follow suit is a good thing. And if E3 dies in the process I’m perfectly fine with that.

Since the announcement that Sony would be skipping E3, I’ve seen a lot of people online malign Sony, calling them things like anti-gamer, selfish, and out of touch. I find comments like this to be laughable, ironic, and in true American style, extremely narcissistic and self-serving. I’m no Sony Pony and I’m happy to acknowledge a list of issues I have with how the brand has operated the last few years, but their choice to leave E3 isn’t an example of them being bad for consumers. One of the things that I really liked about Sony’s announcement that they were skipping E3 again is that they also stated that they would be participating in “hundreds of consumer events across the globe”. I totally believe this statement because I’ve been seeing it first hand for years. I go to Taipei Game Show every year and Sony always has the largest booth with tons of demos. I tried Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Kingdom Hearts III months in advance because PlayStation demos were available at that show. Sony also hosts a special event in Taiwan that’s essentially an E3 show floor that only features PlayStation games. At Gamescom 2019, which I attended in person, PlayStation had one of the largest spaces at the show. Quite possibly the largest. What all these examples have in common is that they didn’t take place in the US and weren’t focused on by American media. And that’s the point. Sony is expanding their focus to gamers of all places, cultures, and languages. Americans don’t like that because they’re used to being the center of attention and nothing expresses that more in the gaming community than E3.

PlayStation FestivalRemoving the focus from E3 is a slap in the face to all Americans, and honestly that’s a good thing. And I’m speaking as an American born citizen. Gamers come from all over and they should all have equal access to news, demos, and attention from the publishers they patronize. Sony isn’t anti-gamer. They’re pro gamers worldwide. They may be a for profit company and thus are selfish by nature, but pulling out of E3 isn’t an example of that. Microsoft never shows up to Taipei Game Show. Would it be fair to call them selfish? Maybe. But it’s no more selfish than Sony not showing up to E3. Sony isn’t out of touch. The PS4 sold way more than the XB1. Why? Because Sony understands that the US isn’t the only market and has taken steps to expand their market reach outside of that one country. A country they aren’t originally from by the way.

Microsoft will of course be at E3. It’s an American based company with a predominantly pew pew focused audience made up of mostly Americans. They have almost no market penetration in Asia. How could they possibly even consider not going to E3? It’s pretty much the only AAA focused show they really matter in every year. And once again they’re gonna focus on things like Cyberpunk 2077, a cross platform game that you will be able to play on PS4/PS5. Free advertising for Sony yet again. Sony is playing chess and winning while Microsoft is losing at checkers. Microsoft better hope that third party publishers like Ubisoft don’t eventually bow out of E3 as well or it will basically be an XBOX circle jerk event they have to foot the entire bill for. And having done corporate budgeting for events like Computex myself, let me tell you that it is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination.

cyberpunk-2077-keanu-reevesPersonally I have no problem with E3 going the way of the dodo. But even if I was still a fan of E3 I’d still completely understand why Sony no longer attends. And make no mistake, they no longer attend. Every year now people will wait for the announcement as if there’s a chance they’re going back, but they won’t. That ship has sailed and there ain’t no turning back. Especially now that a lot of media have already turned on E3 after last year’s data leak fiasco. Enjoy it while you can kids because E3 will be dead in no more than 10 years. And that’s a conservative estimate. If this year’s show tanks hard enough, it’s probably dead in five. See you at Taipei Game Show.

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

GOG Galaxy 2.0 Beta Review

I’m a big fan of GOG and have been for many years. They’re actually my favorite storefront to buy PC games from. Though their selection is limited compared to Steam and other PC game distributors, I try to buy from them wherever applicable. One of the main reasons I really liked them when I first found out about them was how convenient their distribution system was. There was no launcher. You just went to their site and downloaded the entire DRM free game you purchased directly to be used offline. For me, this was always a better, more convenient option than Steam. Some years later, they released the GOG Galaxy launcher, which I was against at first because it meant having to have yet another launcher and that suddenly DRM was slowly, and sadly, becoming a thing for GOG. Make no mistake, requiring a launcher to access your games is a form of DRM. Having to login to access your games is a form of DRM. Eventually I gave in and started using GOG Galaxy. It’s good as far as launchers go, but there’s nothing particularly better about it compared to other launchers.

In the time since installing GOG Galaxy 1.0, I have had to add a number of additional game launchers to my system. Uplay, Origin, Bethesda, Epic Games Store, and so on. Every publisher has decided they need their own launcher now. I’m not one of those people who gets angry at companies for not putting their games on Steam. I understand their desire to want to make more money and spend less of it distributing their games. But like with TV streaming services today, there’s a point where there’s just too many entities offering what is essentially the same service with disjointed content. This is what first attracted me to GOG Galaxy 2.0.

LibraryGOG Galaxy 2.0 offers a simple value proposition: manage all your games in one place. It’s a launcher that allows you to see and manage all your games, including those you have on PS4 and XB1, in one organized collection. Honestly it sounded too good to be true when I first heard about it. While simple from a technological standpoint, I didn’t see how GOG, or really any company, would deliver something that actually connects all the games I have, except for those on Nintendo Switch, in one convenient location with user data and preferences from that many separate launchers and two non-PC gaming platforms. So I jumped at the chance to download the beta build as soon as I saw the announcement. I’ve now spent a fair amount of time using the launcher and thought it would be beneficial to write a review of my experiences.

The first thing I want to say is that GOG Galaxy 2.0 (GG2) absolutely delivers. I can honestly say that this is the last launcher I will ever use for my normal day to day gaming needs. That being said, there are a number of caveats which sadly still requires me to make use of other launchers to get the full spectrum of PC gaming and management services I require for all my PC gaming needs. The second thing I want to say is that this is absolutely still a beta build and while I have been using it as my go to launcher, it has a number of bugs and fixes that need to be made. It lags at times when trying to apply tags to games from the grid view. It even crashed once and made me have to restart my whole system.

General Activity Feed.pngIn practice, GG2 is basically Facebook for your games via other game launchers. I say that intentionally with all the good and bad that comes with the Facebook platform. The way it works is that you manually connect each launcher you have installed on your system into GG2’s interface by logging into each launcher via GG2. You can connect or disconnect launchers/services you have connected at any time. To me there does seem to be a level of security risk with linking and logging into all your platforms at the same time and handing that login information to GOG. But you make the same sort of decisions with connecting your social media to your phone every day. I will also acknowledge that each launcher you connect has you login to the launcher’s official login window as opposed to a special GOG one so maybe they aren’t actually being given your login information directly. You can’t actually buy any games, other than from the GOG store, in GG2. In fact, you can’t even access stores from other launchers from within GG2. It’s strictly a platform for managing your games while replacing GOG Galaxy 1.0 for GOG related purchases and gaming.

What GG2 actually does is import your library page from each connected launcher, along with whatever play progress data it can find, and mashes all those libraries together in a single, convenient UI. The launcher separates each connected platform via convenient tabs, but the default page shows you your entire collection of games as one massive list. It can be viewed in either grid view with imported cover images for most games, or list view which shows the name and platform each game comes from. When you choose a specific launcher tab it just filters the same view to that one platform’s games.

PlayStation GameI was quite impressed with the amount of information GG2 imported for each game from each platform. It shows all your achievements/trophies, the date they were acquired, and your play activity for each game. As a note though, it only tracks data from PS4 on for PlayStation and GOG data after a certain year, when I guess they officially started tracking play data for users. Many of my games have no data shown. It imports your friends list from each platform and shows you a comparison of how you’ve done compared to your friends in each specific game. On the subject of friends lists, there’s a feed on the right of the launcher that shows friend activity across all platforms in real time, organized by platform. In one convenient location I’m able to see which of my friends are online in Uplay, PSN, Steam, and so on all at the same time. I’m able to see what games they’re playing and what they’re accomplishing in real time with time stamps. Even though the feed isn’t interactive, it’s super convenient when trying to pick which game to play, if you’re looking for a multiplayer experience. You can also hide/show the feed with a single button on the UI. The add friends and chat functions only work for GOG friends though.

Missing Covers PSNIt needs to be said that GG2 is still limited in what it can actually do in reference to non-GOG games. As the other launchers aren’t actually ceding control to GOG, you can’t directly launch games from GG2. When you press play on any PC game a login window for that game’s launcher will pop up before you can actually play the game. Even if you’ve told GG2 to remember your login information for all platforms, you will still have to manually login to each game’s perspective platform every time. Launch a Steam game, you have to go through the entire Steam login process. Launch a Uplay game, you still have to go through the entire Uplay login process. What GG2 is doing is essentially creating desktop shortcuts for all your games and organizing them into a single unified and curated list for you. I will say though that there are a number of bugs, as this is a beta. For instance, not all my games showed up. Sometimes they show up and then other times they don’t. Often a specific connected account disconnects the next time I load up the application and I have to reconnect it. Thankfully though, when this happens my tagging/filtering options remain intact.

From a security standpoint, this is a good way to do this. GG2 doesn’t actually have full access or control of your other accounts and thus if it was hacked, that wouldn’t necessarily allow the hacker to have access to all your games and account information. At the same time, it’s very inconvenient. Having all your games in one place with access via a single login regardless of where you purchased the games would be amazing, and GG2 almost gets there. Having to login again for that last step to actually play your games is depressing but ultimately manageable. Especially considering the time you saved by not having to open multiple launchers to figure out which game you want to play.

List SortingAs far as PlayStation and I assume XB1 titles, obviously you can’t play them from the launcher. GG2 simply says “launch this game from your console” when you click the play button for a console game. What would have been nice is at least being able to activate the app on console from your PC, but we’re not there yet apparently. It’s also important to mention that, at least for the PlayStation games since I don’t have an XB1, GG2 will only track games tied to your PSN account with a digital footprint. What this means is that all digital PS4 games, including ones you own but don’t have downloaded, will show up in your GG2 list under the PlayStation tab. But only PS4 games that you have actual progress in will show up when it comes to physical versions. I think this is because it’s using the trophy list to figure out which non-PC games you have.

I really like that GG2 shows when you own multiple versions of the same game on multiple platforms. It very clearly shows you how many versions you own, which platforms you own them on, and lets you select which version you’d like to interact with and check player data for. This is a clutch feature that I’m not sure I would have even thought about on my own. It’s not perfect at this point though as some games do show up twice in your list. I think it comes down to naming within each platform more than anything else. For instance, The TellTale Game of Thrones Season 1 game shows up twice in my list. One version on PS4 and the other on PC. But the one on PS4 is just called Game of Thrones while the one on PC is called Game of Thrones: A TellTale Series. So I think that’s why it happened. And yet it didn’t separate my three versions of Batman: Arkham Asylum, each with a slightly different name. In fact, it shows each slightly different name in the game’s main page when you click the versions owned tab. So it’s not an exact science at this point.

Multiple Versions OwnedWhat is actually much more useful and convenient than the tabs is the manual tagging and filtering system.  All your games on all platforms are shown together in one giant list as a default until you use the filters. GG2 gives you the ability to manually tag and filter all the games in your list in whatever way you want. You can also manually hide games from your list. The filtering system lets you use as many tags as you want concurrently to filter the list and tells you how many games using the tag(s) are currently hidden. As a bonus feature, you can click the notice and it will reveal the hidden games and hide the normally shown ones and then go back to normal when you click it again.

The filtering system is a feature I’ve had to do manually for years with folders on my PS4. It’s super convenient in GG2 and makes managing a combined list of more than 600 games much easier. I created three custom tags for filtering: Beaten, Backlog, and Trash. I tagged the games I have already completed with “Beaten”. This allowed me to filter out all the games I’ve finished when I’m trying to pick a new game to play. I tagged the games I actually would like to play from my collection with Backlog. This allows me to set apart games I would actually like to play at some point from the rest of the group, thus streamlining my decision making process. Finally, I tagged the games I would absolutely never play with Trash. My one complaint about the tagging system is that it has to be done manually one game at a time. You are unable to select and tag multiple games at once. This is a non-issue once you’ve gone through and gotten all your tagging done, but it’s hell when you go through and tag your entire collection the first time.

FiltersThere are also a number of small quality of life features that aren’t necessary but make for a way better experience. For instance, when you are scrolling through the grid and you click into a game’s page there’s a back button. Pressing it will take you back to the place in the list you were at when you clicked that specific game. You can give the games star ratings. You can look at your user data measured in daily, weekly, or monthly increments. There’s a general activity feed that shows everything you’ve done such as add games, get trophies/achievements, and play sessions. There are lots of little things like that which make for a great overall launcher experience.

My one big complaint, which doesn’t surprise me and I doubt it will ever be fixed, is that you can’t connect multiple accounts of the same platform. For instance, I have 2 PSN accounts and 2 Steam accounts. This is because I live in Asia but for the most part purchase games in American digital stores. Sometimes I’m forced to purchase a game through my Asian account(s) for various reasons. GG2 doesn’t account for this though so all my secondary account games are not shown in my collection. This is a problem easily fixed that will most likely never get added.

Store FeaturedOverall, I really like GOG Galaxy 2.0. It’s not a finished service yet, but as far as launchers are concerned, it’s the most convenient game organization and management tool I’ve ever seen. I wish I could connect my Switch account to it too. Even people who don’t use GOG can find a use for this if they’re buying their games on more than one launcher/platform. The organizational tools available make it a must for anyone with a large selection of games. I look forward to using the launch version of the software.

Blog Logo
As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.