Anthem: E3 and Me, 2018 Edition

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Word Count (What I’m Writing); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • Project Independence Word Count: @4000 words (+203 words)
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

Goal = 167 words (5000 words by July 1).
Actual = Rebounded after a day with no words and was able to hit Scrivener’s goal of 167 words, but fell a bit short of my own 250 word (personal) goal.   203 words written last night. 

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading); Updated Daily (mostly)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3) (somewhere in 850s in terms of page count–more than ¾th of the way through.  Will post a non-spoiler mini-review when I finish.
  • For School:
    Ancient Rhetorics, Digital Networks: A book that combines New Media (digital rhetorics) and combines them with ideas and theories of the Ancient Rhetorics.
    Lingua Fractal: A Rhetoric book that details the convergence of Rhetoric and Technology and how they interact in today’s world.
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

Reading two or three chapters in Oathbringer every day.  I really shouldn’t be, but it is so good, that I generally read it while eating dinner (and then I go back out to the library to do reading for school).   Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing); Updated Weekly (Mondays)

  • Moving Game Mode On to its own (Mostly) Weekly Post

“Iron Man”: The Game

Anthem was first revealed last year, but got an extended look this year at a truncated game play demo at EA Press Conference.   Attendees to their event got to play the entire demo.  While I enjoyed last year’s demo, this one seemed strangely muted for me.  Perhaps, it was the way EA chose to demo the game with the developers giving a “deep dive” into the game which was really just a way to show concept art and not have to show the entire demo of the game.  While I do appreciate the Q&A format, in this case, it would have been better to have shown us the game and saved the Q&A for after the show.  Also, because the demo was obviously cut, it lost the emotional impact that it could have had.  Its like watching a two hour movie in half an hour by fast forwarding through bits/skipping “chapters”–you can do it, but it loses its ability to create tension.  Still, I’m sort of looking forward to it because players emphasize that it feels a lot like controlling “Iron Man” from the Marvel movies.  You decide when you want to fly, when to land, and the flight component is supposed to add a layer of strategy to the game as you can decide where and when you want to take the battle to your opponent.

Fool Me Once, Shame on You, Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me

So, normally, based on what I’ve seen of the gameplay, I would be super excited to play Anthem, but I have to say, I’m in a wait and see mode for this game.  Mass Effect Andromeda made too many of the same promises, but could not deliver in the end as EA did not want to allow ME:A the additional time it needed to come together.  While this game might make its February 22, 2019 release date, I wouldn’t be surprised if it got pushed back until Mar-early June.  That is as far as I could see EA giving it so that its marketing doesn’t interfere with the marketing of the new Star Wars game that was teased for holiday 2019 as well.  However, I’m waiting on reviews before I go anywhere near Anthem.  ME:A was such a disappointment (for which I paid full price) because I couldn’t believe that EA would be willing to ruin one of its core franchises.  Well, they were–to EA, the ME brand is an also ran, now they want what their competitor Activision has in Destiny and their willing to sacrifice the quality of their games to get it, so no buy for me until reviews hit.

Single Player Story/Multiplayer Open World

The design of Anthem is intriguing.  Apparently, when you’re in “The Hub” (where you get your missions and interact with NPCs), you get traditional storytelling elements, but when you’re out in the open world, you play with your friends in multiplayer.  I’m not sure if I’m going to like that aspect of it, but the devs. did say that one could play the entire game in single player if one wanted to, but it would make the game slightly harder.  While I did have a “crew” that I gamed with on Destiny, I’m not sure how many will move over to Anthem, so that is also something to thing about.  Anyway, those are my thoughts/impressions of the game.

Overall Excitement Level: C

I just don’t trust EA/Bioware to deliver the goods on this one after their poor performance with Mass Effect Andromeda.  While I’m skeptical that they can pull off something magical with this game, perhaps the additional time that they gave to Anthem and not Mass Effect Andromeda will pay dividends to the gamers this time, and not EA’s shareholders.

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

 

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EA Play 2018 Conference Review

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EA Play 2018 (Fifa 19, Anthem, Unravel Two Game images).  Image Source: Coming Soon.Net

Word Count (What I’m Writing)

  • Project Paradise Word Count: 357
  • Project Skye Word Count: 1617
  • Project Independence Word Count: 3041 
  • Project Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel Page Count: 12

0.  Zero. Nada. Zilch. That’s my level of production since Tuesday of next week.  What happened?  Bad day on Wednesday and a realization that I’m still not focusing on enough on characters when I sit down to “plot” out my stories.  To be fair, school and reading for school interrupted as well as I should write after class (about 4:15pm), but usually end up spending the time in the sun outside watching YouTube videos instead.  

Currently Reading (What I’m Reading)

  • For Fun:
    Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (Fantasy Novel, Stormlight Archive Book 3)
  • For School:
    Rhetoric in the European Tradition by Thomas Conley (A Book on the History of Rhetoric)
    Rereading the Sophists: Another book on the history of Rhetoric
  • For Research/Personal Development:
    Great Aircraft of WWII by Alfred Price and Mike Spick (for Project Skye)

I wanted to read Oathbringer over the summer break before classes started again, but BS said that it might be helpful to read a Novella entitled, Edgedancer, before starting on Oathbringer.  I finally found a copy at MTSU’s library and I’m reading it now.  X gives a history of Rhetoric.  Great Aircraft of WWII is a book that I’ve had in my collection for sometime–I’ve glanced at it periodically, but never read it cover-to-cover.  Now, with Project Skye, I intend to do just that.

Game Mode On (What I’m Playing)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands (Ubisoft Multi-platform): Open World, Third Person Tactical Shooter–About ¾th of the way through.  Special Ops/Military combat in a fictional Bolivia taken over by a Mexican drug cartel.  Difficulty is auto-leveling to its hardest difficulty (Tier One status) and it is slowing down my progress in the game as enemies take more hits to die, but you take far fewer hits to die.  Difficulty is currently set to ADVANCED–the game’s doing, not mine.  Very irksome when all you want to do is finish the game.

  • Until Dawn (Sony PS4 Exclusive): Third Person, Horror– branching storyline game that features a variety of choices that affect the outcome of the story using a system call the “Butterfly Effect.”  As I’m writing this, I haven’t put any time into this game as of this weekend because of E3.

Beginning of E3

So, while “technically,” E3 doesn’t begin until Tuesday (June 12), Saturday marked the beginning of the various E3 Press Conferences from the major game publishers to showcase their new products for the upcoming year(s).  As I type this, Electronic Arts (EA) is the only one to have shown their press conference as of yet (although, by the day this goes live, all of the major platform holders will have presented their shows).  I will wait until next week (June 18th) to start reviewing their shows, but since EA started a day early, I can talk about their 2018 show.

Battlefield V, Indies, Sports Games, and Anthem

While EA debuted and talked about many more than what is in the header above, their show basically broke down into these 4 main sections, with these four areas serving as the main topics of discussion for gamers.  Battlefield V seems interesting, but not nearly as revolutionary as 1) Battlefield One, their WWI game, or 2) as the designers seem to think that it is.  While being a part of the Norwegian Resistance is a novel concept, it doesn’t seem as if they are really invested in “doubling down” on that story to tell a truly “gritty” WWII drama (although it remains to be seen).   There were two notable indies talked about during the press conference, Unravel Two and Sea of Solitude.  While I didn’t play more than a demo of the original Unravel, I didn’t mind it.  It was okay . . . but I’ve played many games like it, so I decided to wait until it was on sale at a very low price (or hope that it would come to the “free” PS Plus games program).  U2 will probably go the same way.  Sea of Solitude (SoS) looks interesting, but as a poor college student, I’ll probably end up passing on it as well.  The sports games all look fine, but EA has pushed me out of the sports game market.  I used to be a heavy sports game enthusiast, but with the inclusion of “franchise” modes, “story” modes, and “ultimate team” modes (virtual trading cards purchased with real currency), I find that I simply can’t play the game like I want to–take my favorite team, play 1 “season,” and see if I can win the championship, and rinse wash and repeat each year, so I stopped buying them.

Anthem

Closing the show was a “deep dive” on the game Anthem.  I’m actually going to save the discussion of Anthem for later as I plan to do individual posts for the most impressive game reveals/game trailers of E3 like I did for E3 2017.  Basically, I’ve heard some position Anthem as a Destiny/Monster Hunter World “clone.”  Long-time readers of the blog know that I’m a hardcore Destiny fan.  However, after the crap EA pulled with Mass Effect Andromeda, while I do plan to “preorder” the game, I will be waiting on reviews before I actually “purchase” it and will switch my money to another game should the reviews be anything less than stellar; I prefer to wait for a significant price drop in the summer and/or as a holiday game rather than pay full price for a game that is less than stellar these days.  Fool me once, EA.  I’ll be waiting on the reviews on this one.

Overall Grade: C-

So, I went back and forth on this one as I really think that this Conference was an improvement to last year’s EA Conference (mostly due to the host Andrea Rene) and it was an example of a “old school” type of conference that was fine in the PS2/PS3 era of gaming.  The problem is that it could have been so much more.  As the unofficial start of E3, everyone always hopes that EA will do better than it does, but EA refuses to actually do what the gamers want–less developers and more gameplay (and more diverse games).  You have the Star Wars license, please show us Star Wars games.  EA has the licenses for the Army of Two series, Battlefield series, Burnout series, Command & Conquer series, Crysis series, Dead Space series, Dragon Age series, Mass Effect series, Medal of Honor series, Need for Speed series, Plants vs. Zombies series, Rock Band series, SimCity series, The Simpsons series, The Sims series, Skate series, SSX series, Star Wars series, Titanfall series (list pulled from front page of Wikipedia).  

They only talked about Battlefield (newest game), Command and Conquer (mobile game–wrong venue as E3‘s audience isn’t really comprised of mobile gamers), The Sims (in pre-show), and Star Wars (and they couldn’t even release a logo/trailer/etc from the newest Star Wars game which isn’t even releasing until holiday 2019).  That’s it.  All those licenses listed above and that’s all the EA showed, knowing full well that gamers want gameplay.  Hopefully, Bethesda, Square Enix, Ubisoft, and Sony will be much more exciting and will feature the games/gameplay that gamers crave.

Here is a super-salty, but condensed version of the press conference that is only 5 minutes long (clean, but very dismissive–probably more than I would I have been, but the summary is on-point):

Well, that’s all I have for now.  Have a great day!

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

 

 

As EA’s Value Rises With its Shareholders, EA’s Value is Plummeting With Gamers (especially me)

 

Okay, as you know, I try to have this blog reflect my diversity of interests and as video games are now were a lot of really interesting things are happening in Science Fiction and Fantasy (& one could say Horror, with the explosion of VR and non-VR Horror titles), it is safe to say that I devote quite a bit of time to video games on this blog.

However, some may have noticed that I’m not talking about some of the games that I profiled earlier in the year from EA even though two of them have been released: Need for Speed Payback Star Wars Battlefront II (2018). This is because EA has lost their focus as a company and I’m not really interest anymore in the product that they are producing.

Let’s Talk About Audience
So this is going to be about micro transactions, right? Well, yes and no.  EA has been trying to walk a fine line for a long time.  They want to publish video games and make a profit by having more people buy them than it takes to make them.  However, they’ve increasingly wanted to appeal to their shareholders with business strategies that are designed to get more money, but not through games.  They had a program called Project Ten for a while, designed to get customers to pay ten dollars more for “Deluxe/Enhanced/DLC/etc” for their games, before that it was Season Passes, and so on.  They were the publisher who partnered with Microsoft to make the original Titanfall game an X-Box One exclusive (even while the console was “going down in flames” due to its original “Always On” conception & restrictive used game policies).  In the past month, EA has cancelled a Star Wars game, shuttered a Studio, and included micro transactions in two of its flagship titles (one of which it has “temporarily” rescinded).  All of this is great news to shareholders, but horrible news for gamers–the people who actually purchase games.  Currently, EA seems to feel that they’re number one job is pleasing the shareholders and not their core audience.  Not a great move.

The “Mass Effect Andromeda” Effect
So, I realized what happened after I bought the game Mass Effect Andromeda for full price when it was first released.  I reasoned, “yes, the reviews are lackluster, but this is a seminal “brand” for them–they wouldn’t completely mess it up or they would destroy their fan base.  They would have the same care of the ME brand as Disney had for the Star Wars “brand” after they bought it from George Lucas.  We’ll, Caveat Emptor (let the buyer beware).  The game was a buggy mess that was mediocre at best.  Yes, it ran, but not well–from glitches, to frame rate issues, to a storyline that started strong, but meandered and filled with quests and side quests meant to pad the length of the game–it was a huge disappointment.  I linked to it before, but below is a video of a longtime Bioware/ME fan who quit the game out of frustration for such a disappointing effort.

Why did this happen, you might ask?  The answer was simple: the game just needed 6 more months of development time.  However, six months would have put it into the window of Star Wars Battlefront 2 (which is releasing now).  They can’t push that game because of the movie (The Last Jedi) which opens in month, but also they have Anthem coming down the line, and so they chose to release something that wasn’t ready and sell it at full price.

I personally finished ME:A–my completionist nature at work–but I decided that, while I would still buy games from EA, they would now receive the lowest consideration on my part, to be bought only when I bought/played all the other games I was interested in playing.  It will be at least a year based on school and other games in the queue before I get around to purchasing an EA game–and I’m okay with that–and that’s the problem.

Unholy Alliances
Between that experience and the micro transactions, EA has proven that they care not a whit about me as a gamer and as a consumer.  They prefer their share holders over me, so I’m content to wait.  The whole goal of a company is to produce products that an audience loves and will purchase again and again–Apple, anyone?–not to try to dig extra money out of your audiences pockets through tricks and manipulative schemes, so that your numbers look all rosy at the next Investors’ Conference Call.  You can’t make “moon-calf” eyes with the angel while dancing with the devil.

As someone who has bought games from EA, back when they originated (heck, I even remember when Trip Hawkins founded the company and have some of the company’s newsletters from that time period) and they produced games like: Starflight (the “original” ME:A back in the day), Skyfox, and The Bard’s Tale II from the company’s inception, all the way into adulthood, I feel that EA is missing the point by chasing the fickle investor who will dump their stock like a ton of bricks no matter what EA does the moment EA’s dividend doesn’t meet with their expectations.  EA needs to get its priorities straight and until they do, I’ll buy games from other companies that still seem to “get it.”

Mass Effect Andromeda, Glitches

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Image Source: Gamesradar

So, remember when I said that Mass Effect Andromeda has some odd design choices–well, it also has glitches.  I’ve seen the effects of rushed games before Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was particularly bad (the patches for Assassin’s Creed Unity, however, made the game quite stable and glitch free, but Syndicate was just as buggy and crash-prone as Mass Effect Andromeda.  Here are two fairly egregious examples:

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This glitch came about when I was on the ice world of Voeld (?) and I happened across to “Resistance” fighters who had been “fused” together into one animation rig (take a close look at the aliens head, arms, and legs).  They “phased” in and out of each other but had two heads and you could clearly see that their bodies overlapped one another to create a “Double-headed” character.  Again, with more time in development this would have probably been caught by the Q.A. testers and put on what’s called a “glitch” list to be patched out either before the game shipped, in a day-one patch, or in a successive patch released down the line.

Two-Handed

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The second glitch I want to highlight came about on the desert world of Kadara where a “raider” was supposed to be running at me firing her weapon.  However, this was kind of hard for her to do as neither of her arms worked correctly and were twisted out to her sides.  Her running animation also did not trigger, so she just “hovered” around the surface of the planet as if she had invisible skates.  It was both pretty funny and pretty painful considering that I spent the full asking price for the game.  Again, this is something, with enough time, that could have been seen and fixed before release.

EA, Anthem (another BioWare Game) and Quality Control

So what happened?  EA, the publisher of ME:A had another game by Bioware the company that made ME:A under development (Anthem).  Anthem is one that they are positioning to be a competitor to Destiny, a rival game from rival publisher.  This is where much of the focus went.  This new game was developed by a different “division” of Bioware, has a huge focus in terms of resources and talent, and more importantly was working towards a fixed schedule in terms of release date–2018.  EA also has another big game, Star Wars Battlefront II, in which they’ve invested a lot of time, energy, and marketing in coming out Fall of 2017.  So for EA to have done the right thing by consumers by delaying ME:A would have affected the publishing schedule of these two other games in the pipeline.  So they chose to release a game that was “not fully baked” because they didn’t want to impact the sales of these other two games.  So, in essence, EA sacrificed the fans of the Mass Effect brand in order to satisfy the fans of the Star Wars brand and to “win” (or at least make in-roads) against the fans of their rival in business (i.e., Activision and their game Destiny) having built up this fan-base all through the Playstation 3/X-Box 360 era of gaming.

Now I am a Star Wars fan, still a Mass Effect fan, (& based on the trailer) I will probably be an Anthem fan, but I’m no longer a fan of EA.  Doesn’t mean that I won’t buy EA games, but it does mean that I will be both more selective in the EA titles that I buy and I will be sure to wait both on reviews and patches on EA products.  I will probably no longer buy EA games immediately simply because I cannot trust EA as company to have my best interests as their customer at heart–ME:A proves that EA is more committed to sticking to their production schedule and releasing a game that isn’t fully polished just so they won’t risk cannibalizing sales of upcoming products–ME:A needed 6 more months of polishing, but that would have put it in and interfered with their plans for Star Wars Battlefront II and that is NOT the way a company should treat its customers.

Think I’m the only one who feels this way?  I’m at least committed to finishing the game.  Check out YouTuber gamermd83 take on why she “left” ME:A and why the game was such a disappointment to her.

Sidney




Amazon Associate Disclaimer:
I earn a small commission on the purchase of these items.

True Story–Most People Don’t Finish Games

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Image Source: Gaming.Wikia.com

Recently, I’ve talked about games growing in scale.  Games are getting longer and longer, and games are becoming a “service” rather than a “product.”  Game publishers feel that this is the way to combat ballooning development costs/budgets and maximize profits, but right not, games are mostly a cinematic, narrative-driven genre.  Games, for the most, tell stories.  There are exceptions (a notable one is one of the most popular games currently out there–Minecraft), but for the most part games tell stories.  But there is a problem with this model.

Most people don’t FINISH the games that they buy.

Think that is an exaggeration?  I’ve recently put a lot of time with Mass Effect Andromeda and looking at the Trophy data (Trophies/Achievements) on their respect platforms.  As most games are narrative based, most games include data on the percentage (%) of people getting the trophies/achievements for the various story milestones and the data is more than surprising–it is almost shocking.  As someone who tries diligently to finish (see the ending credits roll) for the games that I buy, I’m always surprised by the low completion of the story modes in games.

Except for the earliest trophies in the game, which are usually anywhere in the 90-80 percentile, as you get deeper and deeper into the game, the percentages fall, sometimes precipitously.  For instance, ME:A has a trophy for completing what appears to be the middle of the game (Madera, the 4th major planet–the 3rd that you can put an outpost on).  The world before has a trophy completion rate in the 70 percentile range.  The trophy for Kadera is in the 30 percentile range.  This is a drop of 50%.  That means half of the people who bought the game stopped playing (for whatever reason) before the midway point.

Now here’s the problem, go to a Trophy Ranking site like PlaystationTrophies.org (or the X-Box equivalent) and you’ll find similar stats (maybe not as dramatic), but nearly every game that has a narrative, there is a decrease in the percentage of players earning trophies/achievements as the narrative progresses.

As games like Overwatch, Destiny 2, and now Anthem, embrace this game as “service” model, new narrative modes, or new ways of delivering narrative are going to have to devised in order to keep players attention and keep them invested in the game delivery platform.