Escalation of moral maturity from game to game

One aspect that’s been part of boys’ play culture for as long as we can go back in written history with records of children’s play is the moral play between good and evil. One of the modern classics that display an everyday battle between these two extremes would be Cops versus Robbers. As we grow up, the stark contrast between good and evil usually begins to dim to the point where we can accept that good and evil are subjective, at least on philosophical level. The contest between the perceived sides still persist into our adulthood, more often than not shaded to the point of the perceived evil being more justified than the opposing side.

The traditional pen and paper role playing games stem from the myths of antique and the knight plays. I don’t think there’s one child in the world who has no played a role of a knight in some play. The knight I’m referring here is more akin the idea of local protector, hence why black knights are the opposing, equal power. Perhaps an allegory for the fallen angel of sorts on some level. Nevertheless, the early computer RPGs were largely digitised forms of Dungeons & Dragons games these people used to have, with Ultima being an example of such. If you look in late 80’s and 1990’s Japanese fantasy light novels and series branched from them, like Slayers, they’re largely based on the author’s own D&D games. With the D&D crowd, at some point they stopped playing knights outside in the nature, and moved indoors. Of course, Live action role playing, or LARPing has become somewhat popular, and is effectively just people playing like kids with far more serious intent and costlier props.

The aforementioned paragraph may sound rather negative, though it’s more an argument of natural change. Whether or not theatrical plays predated children play acting is unknown, but the two have a linear connection between maturity and playing. Play acting became a profession, something done so good that it could be made money with. The adult life is strongly reflected in children’s plays, as playing is often the best form of education and learning for the future. Kids trading stones and sticks on the playfield essentially prepares for commerce. Pokémon TCG was largely panned by parents in its initial release years, but one thing they learned about it was how it taught children the value of goods and trading. Modern world simply allows certain aspects of immature play to be present more than with previous generations. The concept of something being childish and for children only has seen a silent paradigm shift.

Perhaps the example of this is electronic games. While computer games were seen somewhat more mature compared to console and arcade games in the 1970’s and 80’s, they’ve been accepted as a media for all ages since the late 1990’s, with some grudges here and there. It’s still not all that uncommon to see some parents from previous generations to describe game consoles and computers as toys, which often yields a rather negative response due to associated immature mental image it carries with it. While understandable, toys are means to play. Describing a game machine a toy in this sense isn’t wholly inaccurate, as all it exists for is to play.

However, electronic games and machines they run on prevent any creative forms of plays. They offer a statistic, controlled and extremely limited form of play, which is more akin to adult overseeing a children’s play. This is currently a technological issue, as we’ve yet to see completely dynamic world that allows the player to enact whatever possible they want. One can’t build a hut and live in there for the rest of the character’s natural life in a Final Fantasy game, because the game is not prepared for that. It’s limited to the story the game wants to tell. Playing often requires the player to follow the rules, after all. Not all toys allow all forms of play either, after all. While calling video and computer games as toys might sting your ear, the association with play is completely natural and such naming shouldn’t be deflected from the get go. After all, we have adult’s toys as well, which children shouldn’t have access to before they are mentally and physically mature enough.

The same applies to video games. Grand Theft Auto and Skyrim are both games we constantly see people of all ages playing, despite the age recommendations being there. Being a direct descendant of Cops VS Robbers and knight plays, both game simply take the basic core and expand on it. GTA may have you play as the Robber, but the moral hues you’re given are numerous. The same applies to Skyrim, where the player character is a figurative knight on his route to slay a dragon. The means and toys have just changed from a stick representing the baton or sword to a plastic controller and readily set digital world.

The question how much industrially prepared playing via toys has affected modern world’s play culture as a whole is a topic I’m not ready to touch on. However, some examples how things simply change drastically with a toy would be Barbie. The toy is not a doll for girls who play with it, it’s a Barbie. Singling out a toy like this outside all others has grown to the point of almost all toys have been made their own rather than for overall playing in general. Perhaps the largest reason for this change is the successful franchising, where the association with a toy and a character is made so much stronger. A child is not just buying a transforming robot toy, he’s buying Optimus Prime and all the mental images associated with the character.

While the contest between moral sides in boys’ games has escalated since the 1950’s, similar escalation has been lacing in electronic games. This is due to all the aforementioned; electronic games are just part of it. The age-old discussion about boys’ and girls’ games is valid, and while I’d argue that a well made game does cater to both sexes, the truth is that one has more interest towards certain kinds of games over the other. That is the nature of things. However, nothing exists in a vacuum, and games experience as much mixing of these two play cultures as real life does. The Sims is still the best example of girls’ play culture being completely accepted by both sexes (the game’s essentially playing Home), as is Super Mario. Super Mario just happens to be perceived more immature due to the design choices and lack moral greys over something like Halo, which is perceived a a “big boys game.”

This is a point, as not all games, electronic or not, are for all ages. It is up to the parents to decide whether or not Little Jimmy is ready to handle mature concepts like interrupted penetration, self-mutilation in the name of love, the absurdity of how pointless life is or the sheer sexual tension between a man and a machine. Something truly is for “big boys.” The core play doesn’t change with maturity, but the concepts and themes that frame the act do.

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Changing winds

While this blog has concentrated mostly on the earlier decades of video games and pre-Pong game culture now and then, I’ve intentionally neglected more recent electronic game culture. This hasn’t been by design, but more because there has been a need to showcase that video games overall have always been part of mainstream entertainment in a way or another. The world has changed significantly during the last forty years since games became a cultural phenomena, and like everything else, as you grow older the new stuff seems worse than it used to be.

The main demographic of electronic games we’re talking about follows the same lead the one’s pinball and penny arcades attracted the most; teens and college students. Before the advent and birth of mainstream video games, the 50’s and 60’s rough teenager culture flourished within these arcades, making their games more a showcase of rebellious attitudes. This market wasn’t just the only target group, as these arcades were enjoyed by everyone, it just depended on the arcade what sort of patrons it had. The first step towards the modern gamer and the computer game nerd happened with Pong and when home computers became a thing. The combination of people who played Dungeons & Dragons, science fiction fans like Trekkies and radio hobbyists sort of pack into video and computer games because the medium allows imagination to flourish, both as a developer and as a consumer. The problem largely was that it required mathematics and electronic knowhow, and thus the design and input devices were more or less completely bound to a one-button controller, a very specific controller, or a keyboard. While Pong and other consoles had intuitive controllers, a keyboard used to be rather scary device. To some, it still is.

This meant that people who put their time to either develop or play these games didn’t exactly fit the social norms of the time. Bullying people who play games at home, rather than on the field, in the arcades or in a dank gambling saloon was rather everyday event. However, if an industry doesn’t expand its market and renews itself, it has high chances of dying down. With Atari and arcades becoming an incredible force to be reckoned with, penetrating American culture like no other, driven by Japanese arcade games no less, followed by European micro-computers’ boom in the Old World. Despite the Video game crash of 1983, gaming had made its mark on the mainstream audience and culture, and when the NES hit around, video games became more mainstream than ever. At this time, computer games still managed to roll onward, and while their success is nothing to scoff at (just look at Ultima series!), computer games were for a more limited audience due to the price of the machines themselves and understanding of the technology itself. As said, European markets were rather different, with NES essentially screwed over due to mishandling, Sega Master System offering more and cheaper games, and micro-computers being the thing to have.

A third wave of market expansion (or fourth wave, depending how you’d like to count it) happened in segments during the 1990’s. While the SNES didn’t perhaps have the market expansion as Nintendo would’ve hoped, it did manage continue in the steps of its predecessors. While arcades saw their second golden age with Street Fighter II, PlayStation without a doubt had a significant market penetration and expansion, only comparative to Pong, arcades, Atari and the NES. While Super Mario had cereals and cartoons for younger audience to consumer, the PlayStation struck chord with the older audience, much like how the Mega Drive had previously. Wipeout is a prime example of this, as it became synonymous with the trance and dance club culture.


Have a few quick ones in the club, and then few lines at home while enjoying the the game and its music

Nothing else shows how much penetration PlayStation had as its successor being the most sold home console. However, after this point there games had less penetration with the overall culture. Video and computer games, despite being popular and selling massive amounts to the point of eclipsing Hollywood’s sales, had became mundane. An industry like video and computer games doesn’t change by itself forcefully, but has to grow according to consumer wants and needs. If it turns to be selfish and producing more trophy games, sales will lessen. However, most of these games throughout the ages have been deemed terrible and have seen low sales, despite the gaming media praising them at times.

To a person who grew up with video games in the 1980’s or 1990’s, the changes that took place in the 00’s and 10’s , may seem rather disappointing. For those who have read this blog for a long time already should know what this refers to. Games are not only story driven, but at times completely dependent on them. The cross-pollution of between consoles and computer games markets to the point of PC gaming being dead and replaced with a digital game console Steam. Games had become mainstream to the point of everyone being able to access them pretty much everywhere, and the previously set boundaries to develop or play them had been long since been taken down.

The Financial crisis of 2008 made a mark on the game industry. Both the Xbox 360 and PS3 were rather expensive consoles to own, but the Wii had a balance of being cheaper and more arcade like games. Despite the market expanding and new people being introduced to games, certain style of games still were the most successful. Wii Sports is an example of this sort of game, which of we never really saw any other like on the Wii. Wii also became a Virtual Console machine for those who remembered NES from their childhood, and now had access to more games than ever on systems available on the VC. Much all other industries at the time, making your consumers spend money on products that they didn’t need was a challenge the least. It was at least at this point when the industry overall didn’t aim to expand and further concentrated on the core consumer group that had been there for a long time, with few exceptions about.

While the financial crisis still having slight effect a decade later, the monetary situation with many is very much different. Companies have introduced microtransactions as an industry standard to the point of multiple companies practicing predatory behaviour for higher profits. However, this would not be possible if the market’s actions would not allow that. While the game industry and market itself has been consumerist, it could be argued that microtransactions and lootboxes have taken things to an overdrive. Corporation’s are very effective on capitalising consumer weaknesses, especially now that almost everyone has access to these games. All this, combined how the video gaming media is essentially just a huge engine for hype and advertisement, further solidifies how much the game industry has become an equally massive machine as its market is. With expansion and new generations entering the hobby, and overall tastes changing globally, some older consumers feel a distaste for what modern games are.

Political climate affects games as any, and games have become increasingly agenda driven at places, especially within certain indie scenes. I won’t go any deeper into this here, as I’ve discussed games as form of escapism first and foremost many times previously. However, ultimately it is the sales numbers that decide how the industry will act, as game industry has become completely reactionary just like Hollywood, and on the long term games that de-emphasize gaming will ultimately see less sales. Much like Hollwyood is all about the big cinematic universes and each movie has to be a billion dollar event, so has the game industry moved towards building massive spectacles in eSport (with Street Fighter V suffering this the most) with both having equally bankrupt creativity. Hell, the current state of both industries is the best argument why neither should be considered as art, but entertainment to the masses. That’s not a slight against either industry in a negative way, much like how visual novels aren’t games. A thing being its proper self is nothing to be worried about-

Games haven’t exactly changed in terms of quality of the titles. There has always been a large number lesser games on the market compared to the gems, that hasn’t changed. However, the sheer number of games has changed to the point of keeping up on all released games across all platforms is almost an impossible task without external help. Information technology, technology overall, ease of development and change in developer/publisher scene have changed the industry and the market. Whatever era of gaming you prefer the best, we’ll never be able to return to that form.  The only way to steer the game industry to a desired direction is doing two things I’ve talked often; wallet voting, and being an informed consumer.

The state of gaming as it is now will be a passing trend. In five years down the line, we’ll be able to look at the 10’s and hopefully laugh at all the things we consider important now.

Street Fighter 30th Anniversary collection and then some

Ever since Street Fighter turned 20, I’ve been making some insignificant noise to see proper recognition for the original Street Fighter, as janky as the game is. It is one of those games that would deserve a complete remake. Capcom has been dropping bits and bobs about the first game here and in form of optional outfits and such, but a straight remake is still a pipe dream.

The 30th Anniversary Collection is a step towards right direction in many ways. Not only it makes titles like Street Fighter III New Generation and 2nd Impact accessible to those who don’t have a CPS3 or Dreamcast, but collects all the main titles under one umbrella title. It would be great if all the games had online to them, but companies can put only so much money and effort into celebratory collections like these. I don’t mind using my Dreamcast, but many don’t have access to a DC. Similarly, it would be perfect if there was online for all the titles, but that’s not really happening, is it? Online is important for modern games, without a doubt, despite yours truly still regarding couch coop the best form of multiplayer.

I’m not surprised that the EX games are missing from this collection. They never were mainline SF titles, but the first two did enjoy success on the PlayStation. Capcom would have to pay royalties for the original characters, as ARIKA owns their rights. Not that would be a bad idea overall, with ARIKA’s upcoming unnamed fighting game project  (which carries the title of Fighting EX Layer for now) coming along and making some buzz in the fighting game scene. It would have been good cross promotion for ARIKA as well, but I never held my breath for their re-release. Might as well pick up the original PlayStation discs if you’re interested, they don’t go for too much. If I’m honest, I’ve been following this one closely. Graphically and mechanically the game is sound, even at this early state, but ARIKA does need to rework the sound department at some point.

Of course, the collection is not limited to one system. Not many things are nowadays, but perhaps that’s OK for this sort of celebratory game. I wouldn’t be surprised if the sales numbers for the Switch version go high, as Ultra Street Fighter II sold rather well. This collection makes a good addition. Shinkiro was employed to illustrate the key art for the game, and all in all it’s an improvement over the aforementioned USFII.

The additional goodies are a sprite viewer and a music player mode. Street Fighter sprites have always been popular on the ‘net, for better or worse, but having this sort of access does allow closer inspection without any hurries for those, who don’t want to resort to emulation or looking up sprite sheets. It may be a bit insignificant addition, but this sort of little things go add a lot. The music player is a neat addition, though the one that would’ve broken the bank would’ve been a colour edit mode.

Capcom’s going to the right direction with this. Street Fighter V has been a sales and success disappointment all around. With its Arcade Edition coming out, alongside its Season 3, Sakura and bunch of other characters are confirmed to join the final roster. However, these two titles are at odds with each other. SFV was developed with the eSports scene in mind, and that’s where it has seen its limited success. The assumption that Capcom will release further versions of the game is more or less based on the fact that ever since SFII  this has been the case. However, as we’ve seen examples with Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) publishers and developers are trying to make each title pay off more on the long run. DLC is a practice on itself, with Season passes essentially being planned additional content on the base title. Arcade Edition got some negative feedback from the users that got unto the ship from the start and have supported the base game, but from general audience, it’s been all but positive.

Street Fighter V is an example, where Capcom took its gold egg laying goose to a wrong direction. While some games can be fitted into a modern mould, Street Fighter V showcased that you can’t beat an arcade roots from an arcade game. The necessities must be met; a complete game from the start, Arcade mode, a full roster and (surprisingly to some) less emphasize on the tournament scene. SFV should have been a safe game for Capcom to publish, but just like Marvel VS Capcom Infinite, it’s full of decisive flaws in the core design and structure department. Capcom’s competitors are in a far better position nowadays, with all the big houses having at least two decades of experience under their belt and have been pushing out better fighting games than what Capcom has. ArcSys even has a popular license under their belt now with Dragon Ball Fighter Z, which probably sells more than SFV during its lifetime by name recognition alone.

Capcom is one of those companies with rather clear periods. 1980’s Capcom saw its first change with Resident Evil, and the company changed its direction around the mid-90’s. 2000’s Capcom saw a paradigm change around 2006, something that Capcom has been moving away now slowly, but surely. These changes are not immediate, but take slowly place until something significant is showcased. Capcom’s arcade essentially being ran down in favour of console development, classic titles all but missing and ignored, emphasize on Western games, the DLC tactics that consumers didn’t like, and now, nostalgia. While Mega Man Collection games should’ve been just one disc, collecting all the Classic-series games, including Rock Board, those and SF 30th Anniversary Collection are an indication that Capcom wants to serve their long time fans, albeit with pre-existing products most of them already own. With Mega Man X games coming to modern platforms, it would seem that Capcom is testing waters for resurrections, even with some of the newer franchises like Devil May Cry getting its HD collection ported to current systems. Of course, we can’t ignore the rumours for DMC 5 being in development, which became more plausible with the reveal of Mega Man 11.

All that said, Inafune separating himself from Capcom did leave the franchise in a hard place. Just like how he was the face of the franchise to the consumers, he was also responsible inside the company. Kazuhiro Tsuchiya does not necessarily need to become a new face to carry the franchise onward, but that might be inevitable.

It’ll be interesting to see what’s going on at Capcom currently. Keep an eye what’s reading between the lines, as all the interesting bits are there.

Simulated Gambling?

EA and loot boxes sure opened a whole Pandora’s Box. The video and computer game industry has been dabbling on the edge with parental and gamble-help groups, but it was more or less time for the whole thing  to blow up at someone. While all this has become more or less mainstream in the current market, and people putting most blame to smart phone games’ microtransactions, the whole thing does lead back to EA in the first place.

To make long story short, EA implemented a virtual collectible card system in UEFA Championship League 2007, which replicated a real life CCG. The system was essential, as you got your characters via this system. It was all virtual at this point, as there was no need to exchange real money for these cards. This system was then later implemented into FIFA, when their UEFA license was up. Andrew Wilson implemented the same system into FIFA 2009: Ultimate Team, with the player now able to pay for these cards with real money. This is where it turned into gambling, as now it was necessary for the player to pay money for further progression, but that progression was up to chance. Chance that EA completely controlled in their closed system, where they could rig the game however way they saw fit. Of course, none of these cards had any value outside the game itself. Skill Up has a more complete history on this model he called Wilson lootbox, and it’s a highly recommended watch. Pay-2-Win model is more or less here to stay.

The game industry listens to what sells, just like any other. Numbers and data is what brings in the hard earned cash. On the occasion, a publisher puts outs a prestige game, a trophy piece, something they can call art. The rest, on the other hand, are all about the hard cash. Just like Hollywood in many ways, with the Marvel movies being Call of Duty of cinema. Sure, it’s fun to a lot of people and makes a lot of money, but is creatively bankrupt and doesn’t stand much closer inspection. It’s not hard to see the game industry wanting to grab whatever further profit they could, just like any other entertainment industry.

Hence, the expansion of Pay-2-Win model spreading far and wide. Sure, it’s easier to pay some buck or two for an in-game item, when the game is free. However, predatory tactics and abusing consumer weaknesses is part of the industry here, as these games more or less stifle your progression without additional purchases, sometimes to a point that you simply can’t proceed further due to in-game stats being against you. Few bucks here and there does stack up quickly, and a buck a day is already thirty bucks a month. With the occasional sales, you suddenly find yourself having paid more than fifty, or if you’re one of those whales these systems abuse, hundreds if not thousands.

The industry regulated itself according to the profits gained, and the statistics gained from various games have allowed the companies to find a sweet spot with the freemium, Pay-2-Win model.

This sort of regulation is lacking, as it completely ignores the consumer. Chris Lee, a Hawaii rep. has proposed a legislation to curb down predatory gaming practices. US is not the only one to take notice of the landslide Star Wars Battlefront II (2017)  has caused, as French senator Jérôme Durain has also issued a letter to the French online gambling regulator ARJEL, which addresses some key-note, like the lack of transparency in drop-rates. PEGI itself has already taken stance on virtual gambling, where a game with such elements automatically getting 12 as age rating, and can go easily up two 18. Pokémon games dropped their Game Corner due to change in this stance around 2006, as that would’ve meant the age rating would’ve shot upwards, limiting their main consumer base.

However, PEGI doesn’t regard loot boxes themselves as form of gambling as such, neither does ESBR. This may change in the future, as Belgium has taken a stance already on loot boxes being gambling due to mix of money  and addiction. Geens notes that the change he drives will take some time, as he needs to go through the rest of Europe in order to achieve his goal. If the issue is taken to larger European Union, and is being backed by a number of countries, things may get hot for game developers and publisher who rely on microtransactions and loot boxes.

There has already been some rippling effects. EA’s stock took a dive after the Battlefront II (2017) managed to garner all this negative attention, with the snowballing effect. While this probably won’t effect much, it is still a notable change. PUBG developers also have stated that they would not add anything that would affect the gameplay in terms of microtransactions or loot boxes. Bungie’s Destiny 2  and numerous other games have been under more specific scrutiny about their systems of progression, with Bungie even cancelling a stream to discuss their experience scaling fiasco.

The direction we’re going with video games regarding gambling is a two-bladed sword at best. One one hand, the industry has taken advantage of the weaker section of the their consumer base. Those who can’t handle themselves yet or understand the monetary values they’re putting into microtransactions and loo boxes have had it easy. Perhaps making payments has been streamlined a bit too much, with reports of kids spending thousands of dollars of their parents money being less than uncommon. While it is up to the parents to oversee their children, we should also look into the design of things.

On the flip side, more governmental control over any industry does lead to over-control easier. Furthermore, actual virtual gambling games may suffer from this for being put into a same slot, if legislation is not accurate enough in its description, or includes simulated gambling that does not include real life money. While mahjong simulations have rarely, if ever, managed to reach Western shores, games may seem these simulated gambling elements removed in favour of lower age ratings, or in worst cases, of they somehow become completely unacceptable. It also makes it so much more easier to put further restrictions on other aspects of games even further regarding whatever, be it violence or depictions of humans. German rules are already harsh, and it would be discouraging to see any similar legislation spreading about.

It’s a thin line the game industry is threading on, but as they say, The greedy has a shitty end.

 

Industrial bloat

EA is the thing everybody likes to kick whenever its relevant. EA deserves it too, as the company has a long history of taking franchises and developer studios and running them to the ground. Very few have any love toward them, except sports gamers who buy the latest NHL and FIFA release each year. We can understand the mindset. They’re a corporation just like any other, and aim to do everything for profit. The methods just don’t seem to sit with some consumers, while others just don’t care.

That said, microtransactions and loot boxes have been talked to death a lot as of late, thanks to them taking more presence in the mainline games. The model can be said to come from mobile games, where it has essentially become the lifeline of many games, where games are offered free, but their larger content has to be paid for, or at least to succeed further requires putting some money in.

From psychological point, microtransaction is a well selling term. It give an idea of a transaction of miniscule size, almost something that doesn’t matter. The effect on the consumer is interesting, and these small transactions often can pile up when you can’t keep track on physical money. It is far easier to spend what you don’t see, and then suffer the consequences later on.

Loot boxes are another can-o-worms, especially when they’re the kind that are tied to promotional events or otherwise to something that forces the consumer to consume their time with the game’s event or related. Considering many games offer loot boxes to be bought with real money, or in-game money you can buy with real money, it is gambling. It is very much comparable to a lottery ticket where each ticket has some sort of win. While some make an arbitrary difference between loot boxes and gachas, the concept is largely the same. Here we could argue that loot boxes are similar to vending machine toys, and these are not counted as a form of gambling. However, the difference is of course that a vending machine does not insist you on a purchase, unlike the constant reinforcement video and mobile games tend to do with seasons, events and the like. The concept of gambling and video games is something I’ve touched before, with the argument that video and computer games themselves are not gambling, but can contain simulation of gambling, but loot boxes and gachas touch upon real world and games are designed to work with them as a core element, then we’re talking about a form of digital gambling.

However, the whole debacle of Star Wars: Battlefront II (2017) is a whole another thing. While it has seemed to be a PR nightmare to EA due to all the negativity its microtransactions and  how long it’ll take to open up new characters within the game, EA has managed to make use all of this and seem like a company that listens to their consumers. Buying whatever in-game money it is they use to unlock characters will be enabled at a later date.

There’s the rub though; Battlefront II (2017) and other games like it that offer purchased random goods already cost money. Essentially, the game companies have become bloated to each direction in how much higher ups get salary to production values and development time that they need to find new ways to make more revenues. In order to make the revenues go up, EA has opted to concentrate all their efforts on a whale of a game that should snag the most players. All this after you’ve payed the full price for the game, of course, and you can’t open things up through sheer effort and skill. The game has cool down periods, where you can’t acquire in-game money. Hell, you can expect only 1-3% of the game’s players to carry these microtransactions. These are the trouble consumers that may need serious help. Gamers, while saying one thing, often seem to do the exact opposite.

This isn’t exactly putting all your eggs into one basket. This is more like putting trying to sap out everything from the consumer through one product. What I mean by this is that EA has opted to get as much revenue out of the game as possible outside the sales of the game. There is no equivalent in other entertainment media due to the nature of games. This isn’t a subscription to digital service or the like.

All this is a symptom. The cause, if we’re to believe companies, is the rising development costs. Unlike what these corporations want to tell the consumer via their PR, consumers at large don’t expect cutting edge graphics or the like. The game design has always been the number one factor. The only game culture that has concerned themselves with highest possible graphical fidelity is the computer game culture. However, with the cross pollination and consoles becoming dumbed down PCs, with Steam serving as a digital game console platform, it’s no wonder this skewed sense has crept into game development. Much like how Hollywood execs are becoming further moved away from the common consumer, the same is happening in game industry. There are too many large houses doing far too large projects, there is only three consoles on the market, with Steam effectively being a fourth addition that play the bit part of everything. Uniqueness has been replaced with ports everywhere, and now that ports seemingly not making enough money, the consumer is expected to dosh out more for the product they purchased.

EA and other developers need to look inside of their own house and cut down on the overtly expensive development cycles.

The argument that games can’t cost over 60€ is also bullshit. Currently, the medium price for a game is lower than what it has been at their highest. Ultima games cost around 120 dollars, with some N64 games costing locally around 120€ when transferred to current currency. If there is a need to raise games’ prices to meet the production costs, so be it. The market will decide if that was the right call. That, or drop the development costs outside salaries. It’s not the consumer’s fault if the products are not meeting with expectations and incredibly over-estimated sales figures.

Tapping people who may have gambling tendencies though is not the way to go.

Guilty Gear design comparison: MAY

May’s one of those characters that were there from the beginning. Not really sure how to describe her but as the Dan of Guilty Gear, where she puts the joke where others are dead serious, except she’s actually viable character to use.

Some say May’s design hasn’t really changed. It’s true that her overall silhouette hasn’t changed, but the design of her costume went through rather significant design overhaul when Xrd hit around. It’s not a total change of outfit, but it is the little bits a total sum is build upon. She’s a pirate, and that’s what her design reflects. There isn’t too much anything deeper to it, though her name, May, is probably an allusion to Brian May, the lead guitarist of Queen.

X, Isuka and Xrd

While the above omits original and XX‘s designs, May’s one of those characters that didn’t exactly change during the Midnight Carnival haydays. Interestingly, she has few takes in the original, with slight tweaks to her design, one of which is probably an earlier picture that got used.

The two above May’s are different in tones and details. While the one of the left has two clips on both sides of her front flat, the right one does not. The skull on her hat doesn’t have a nose on the left one either. The belt is also shorter, as we can see it flapping much freer on the right one. It also lacks the metal end cap on the right card. This is the level of things we’re talking about when it comes to May’s details, but if you’ve read any of my previous comparisons, you know this is par for the course.

From head to toes, here we go.

Continue reading “Guilty Gear design comparison: MAY”

Kinect is dead

Microsoft puts an end to a device nobody wanted.

Looking back at Kinect, it really did become a sort of X32 of the seventh console generation. It was an add-on that was marketed like no other, came in with great hype, sold well at the launch, but then had no good software to make use of it and then whimpered away. That’s all there is to it. While Sega moved away from the Mega Drive for new pastures and managed to mishandle everything until the death of the Dreamcast, and even then we can debate a lot if they have stopped mishandling things, Microsoft tried their best to make it work.

The question whether or not Microsoft created Kinect to counter the Wii’s motion controls can always be on the table to be discussed, and if it was, they really failed at it. At a consumer electronics level, the sort of camera and motion detection games require is just tad beyond out there. Sometimes Kinect lost the sight of people due to their clothing or skin colour, it was a peculiar device in that way. Perhaps it would have been better to deliver some sort of extra attachments with Kinect that would make it clear which part of the body was a hand or a leg, but this sort of idea would’ve gone against Microsoft’s wishes to have the device ready from the box and your body was to be the controller. No bells and whistles attached.

Never mind Microsoft said that they would not sell any Xbox Ones without a Kinect few years back, because that was their normal bolstering. Claiming that the two were one system and nothing could separate them soon came to an end, when Microsoft updated the machine to function without Kinect connected about a year later or so. The PR campaign that both developers and consumers loved Kinect and that there was a demand was mostly just bunch of hot air based on pretty much nothing else but their own hype machine. Machine, which I doubt Microsoft really bought themselves either. They tried, but they failed.

The main point of failure Kinect has is not in the design of the device itself. I’ve seen some seriously impressive prototypes and tech demos in my friend’s tech lab he put up for tests and other purposes tech rats tend to do. Even when you may have capable technology in your hands, it may not be utilised well or is put into use in a wrong field. Gamers and consumers in general may have developed a good eye-hand coordination throughout the years, but eye-body coordination is a totally different thing. A Kinect game overall required very loose controls that people could use. Due to different body types and certain limitations they produce, you couldn’t exactly create a tight game that would require high accuracy body control that would work within the confines of the game. While flicking your wrist to a direction seems almost natural with a pointer, trying to move a giant tub of a boat in a river where you have zero feedback other than what you see is not exactly intuitive.

Even Forza Motorsport 4, which in all fairness looked like an awesome piece, managed to screw its controls in the end. It requires you to have your arms straight the whole time you play the game, and if you’ve ever happened to have a need to keep your arms extended forwards for an elongated period of time, they’ll go sore. This wasn’t the case with either Wiimote’s or Sony’s PlayStation Move, because both of them allowed more comfortable positions of play. Forza 4 almost looks like the only game that didn’t make itself an unchallenging piece in trade for the Kinect controls, but even this has been debated.

In short, none of the Kinect’s games were really worth your time, and consumers didn’t buy it. The only developers that sank more time and money to properly integrate Kinect to their games were those who had a closer relationship with Microsoft. The question just is, how many titles that support Kinect had to bolt it on due to legal agreements with Microsoft, had it thrown together as an afterthought or some sort of combination of both? Without a doubt numerous games were designed Kinect in mind with a passion, but all in all, it seems Just Dance ended up being the best sort of Kinect game out there.

Nintendo seems to be keen on continuing on the legacy Wiimote left them with, though whatever use HD Rumble will have in the end is a topic for another post, but Sony moved into the VR field faster than either of its two competitors. That said, even PS VR has some signs of going downhill with EVE: Valkyrie getting a patch that adds VR-free mode and gets a price drop. Much like full-body motion controls, VR and 3D are things that come and go periodically, and every time they get similar sort of software and support. After the initial burst of interest has gone by, it just lays low and dies down. I hope you didn’t invest into a 3D television.

Nintendo may not have put much emphasize on motion controls this time around, but they’re still there and used. The reason for their existence still is that unlike the Kinect you can add and integrate them into a game relatively easily without trying make them command the whole thing. As said, a flick of a wrist with a pointer in a comfortable position serves better on the long run. However, all these three, body, motion and VR controls, all will fail if they don’t get innovative ways to utilise them and put them into a good use. You can have whatever kind of technology at your hands, but that technology will never go anywhere if the software sucks to the point of consumers vehemently going against it. Kinect will be better used on technology research and development rather than in gaming.

Here’s to you Kinect, very few will mourn you, I won’t be one of them.