E3 and Me–Color Me Intrigued

Toddler with a quizzical face with the caption "I'm intrigued: Do tell me more!"
Image Source: https://memegenerator.net/instance/75937215/thinkingbaby-im-intrigued-do-tell-me-more

So, now that E3 is over and the “dust” has settled, this post will be the last one to feature me talking explicitly about the conference. I may reference games/press conferences at a late date, but for the most part, this will be the last one devoted to the conference itself. Today, I wanted to briefly talk about the “maybes” of the confernce–games that I’m intrigued about and would like to learn more information about in order to make a more informed decision as to whether or not I will (at some point) get them. If nothing else, they have my attention–which, to be honest, is the whole point of E3.

Outriders

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoSin_yLyYI

This is probably the game I’m most intrigued about at the moment. Besides the fact that it is using a word that I’d like to use for my own project (but may not get to do so due to American Trademark laws), it has a very visual style and is something that looks unique and fun to play (based on the trailer). It is a very visual world, and characters that may have both powers along with gun play. Also, based on the number of characters in the trailer, it might also have a co-operative element where different players might be able to play together. This looks very interesting to me.

Deathloop

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgiMSSl2rZ0

So, this one is much more of a wildcard. I’m not so sure about this one. This one only showed a trailer, so I’m not sure what to make of this one. I think this one could be good as it looks like something that could have some interesting dynamics and it is made by a designer that is very invested in narratives so we’ll see. The problem is that cinematic trailers, without gameplay, doesn’t illustrate what gamers will be doing in the minute-to-minute action. As such, it is very hard to be more than intrigued until I find out more about the game.

Marvel’s Avengers

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZh4uQYDlsA

So this one is the one that I was most excited for when E3 started, but while the trailer is excellent (in terms of visuals), I’m much less interested in it than all the others on this list now that I’ve seen it. For one, even though it is less than a year away (11 months approx.), it has very little in the way of gameplay, which is a red flag to me. The short snippets of gameplay inside the trailer seems to be what I’m looking forward to in a game, but I’ll only know once I see more. Also, there are rumblings (rumors) that this game will be structured much like Destiny, Destiny 2, and Anthem. While (unlike some gamers), I’m not opposed to an online, co-op, Avengers game, I wish that it was structured differently.

Cyberpunk 2077

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2bFDPWOq5A

Lastly, this game is one that quite a bit of my enthusiasm has fallen for thanks to how hard CD Projekt Red, the development studio loves Microsoft and continues to use this game as a premiere game on their stage (even though it is for Playstation 4 and the PC as well). Even without that disadvantage out of the way, I’m not sure that the first person perspective is the best for this game. I really liked the 3rd person perspective of The Witcher games, but first person doesn’t really sell me on game. Also, the female protagonist version of the main character was shown the first time the company demoed this game, but it was the male version this time and the male version was the “generic guy” that we see in many sci-fi universes. Not very interesting.

Sidney

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E3 And Me–2019 Edition

Final Fantasy VII Remake characters looking out at the audience--Cloud and Tifa.
Image Source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/6/10/18660638/square-enix-e3-games-trailers-announcements-final-fantasy-7-avengers-e3-2019

So, this is my annual look at E3 and the new games that are coming out over the next year. I’ll try to be more consistent in putting up the games that I’m interested in than I was last year (2018), but I won’t take over the blog with them like I did in 2017. I’ll probably just do one or two (at the max) per week.

However, based on what I’ve seen so far, this year seems to be more of a “winding down year.” Both Playstation and Microsoft have “talked about” (not formally announced, but discussed in fairly candid details) of the new systems that they are working and that are rumored (and expected) to come sometime in 2020. I think I heard one of the correspondents on YouTube refer to E3 this year as “lackluster.” However, there were some games that excited me, so I’ll talk about them briefly here.

Watchdogs Legion

Source: YouTube (Watch Dogs: Legion)

This game is a continuation of the Watch Dogs franchise. I’ve bought and played the two previous entries in this series. The 2nd game seemed a little cramped and I never finished it, although I still intend to go back at some point and seriously try to finish it. However, Watch Dogs Legion intrigued me because it shows not only the detailed open world that Ubisoft is known for, but also showed that the game allows you to recruit (supposedly) anyone from the game world to become part of the resistance. The premise looks cool as does the setting (the near future city of London), so I’m most definitely intrigued.

Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order

Source: YouTube (Star wars: Jedi Fallen Order)

Okay, so this one is by EA and my disdain for some of their practices is well known. However, this one actually looks like it might be fun and interesting. I think that it really helps that it is a single player game and is focused on a strong narrative. Depending on how this development goes for the game, I’m may not pick it up immediately, but I actually may give it a look (which for a game published by EA) is an accomplishment.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Source: YouTube Final Fantasy 7 Remake

This is one that I’m personally looking forward to simply because, while I was around and knew about the original FFVII, I never played it–in its proper game form. I actually played a demo of it from a demo disc (remember those old things?). However, both my uncle and I had noticed the (unfortunate) tendency of JRPGs of the time period to follow the same “young boy who saves the Earth” motif. As such, I decided to pass on the series until FFXIII (I did also play the demo for FFX, and I really liked it and played it multiple times, but ultimately decided to pass on it). However, having put time into the Final Fantasy series, I’d like to see what this game has to offer. Yes, I know it doesn’t accurately replicate the original game, but I just want to get a sense of the story and characters (and for me, getting that in a new, shiny wrapper, just seals the deal).

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • The Independent  (Sci-Fi Short-Story)–
    3rd Draft of 3 Drafts
    Drafting Section 1 (of 3)
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = July 31, 2019
  • I, Mage (Fantasy Short Story)
    Pre-Production Phase (Planning)
    Pre-Writing on Rough Draft & Character Sketch
    Mythic Mag. Deadline = January 31, 2020
  • Ship of Shadows Graphic Novel (Sci-Fi)
    (Current Longer Work-in-Progress) 
    Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32
    Personal Deadline = September 30, 2019
  • HawkeMoon (upcoming) = Edits turned in to editor 5/31/19

Gaming Diary–Week 20

Weekend Gaming: Classic video game characters, Ms Pac-man, Goomba, ship from Space Invaders, ghost from the Pac-Man games, and a PlayStation-like controller
Image Source: https://mashable.com/category/weekend-gaming/

Today is a simple one: just what I managed to play over last weekend. I get a email every week from Playstation Network and in each email they give me the number of trophies (in-game achievements) that I’ve earned and how mcuh time (in hours) I’ve put into online gaming on the PSN Network. I bring this up because every since I joined PSN way back in 2006 with the Playstation 3 (even though I didn’t really play online until 2007 for the most part), I’ve racked up an impressive (or ridiculous, depending on your outlook for online gaming) over 16,000 hours of online play. That equates to roughly 667 days (or roughly 1.8 years) of online play. Now, understand that this is over 13 years of being connected online and also playing games like Mass Effect Andromeda or Assassin’s Creed Origins for over 100 hours while being connected to EA’s servers or Ubisoft’s servers even though I’m playing the game in single player mode. My total actual online play (where I play with/against other humans) is probably about half that number. And that’s just two “generations” of game systems–imagine what my gaming life is like through all systems.

Still, I bring it up because it puts into perspective how much time I’m putting into games. Imagine if I’d put that much time into my writing or my schoolwork; I’d have at least one novel finished, possibly more. So, seeing that number has been an inspiration to me–not to do less gaming, but rather to do more strategic gaming and to put as much time and effort into the things that I really want to make myself just as successful in real life as I am in my “gaming” life.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

I put more time into this game than I had intended, but I was able to finish off a major storyline in the game and then a related secondary storyline. One of the reasons that I put so much time into it was that the enemies in the game managed to kill me due to an unforeseen occurrence in the scenerio (the rebels that were supposed to aid me by causing a distraction died way too quickly and I was caught out alone against an entire garrison of enemies). Well, I couldn’t let that stand and, when the game reloaded, went through the process of (laboriously) taking down the (many) enemies of the base one-by-one. Took about 2.5 hours all told, but as the cliche goes, revenge is a dish best served cold. I cleared the base of all targets by any means necessary. Now that 2.5 hours was in addition to the time I’d already spent completing the Main Quest of taking down the “Crocodile” (a major enemy in the game), but it was still worth it and I’m currently in between missions for the next major story arc of the game.

Rise of the Tomb Raider 20th Anniversary Edition

This is a game I got for Christmas. While I wasn’t really entranced with the “Reboot” of Lara Croft’s adventures with the less than stellar (& overly praised Tomb Raider game from a few years ago), I’ve found this one to be a much more refined and stellar game. Had this one been the “reboot,” I might have been less dismissive of the need for a reboot because so far, this one is far more like the original Tomb Raider games that the crappy reboot even though this share’s that games basic design philosophy and graphical skin. There’s just something about this game that compels me to move forward, where the Tomb Raider reboot game from 2013 did everything to push me away and made me want to gag every time I played it.

This session consisted of me completing all of the challenges in the first two areas of the game (except for one that I don’t have the right arrow skill for and will have to return to when I do). I then did my first “Challenge Tomb” (which is an optional tomb that I can explore and figure out how to complete for extra rewards and experience). I’m early in the game–the game internal tracking says I’ve completed 12% so far), but if the rest of the game is like this first bit, I think I might like it quite a bit more than the Tomb Raider reboot that I absolutely destested and still don’t feel is a worthy game in the TR universe. I’ll keep playing and let you all know if I still feel this way as I go through the rest of the game.

Well, that’s it for now. I did play a few other games, but I didn’t put near the amount of time in to any of them as I did these two, so I hope you enjoyed this post! 🙂

Sidney

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  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
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Hate “Grindy” Games? Blame “Hard” Games like Dark Souls, Bloodborne, Etc.

Image of Bloodborne character in trenchcoat and bonesaw turned away from the viewer.
Image Source: https://www.gamedesigning.org/learn/game-difficulty/

So, a few minutes ago, I was watching a YouTube video for a gamer/commentator by the name of AngryJoe. Now, he is known for his “Angry Rants” and “Angry Reviews” for popular video games. While often fair, he does become quite “Angry” when a game is bad (esp. when it was hyped to be good by the game publishers ahead of time. Now, this is an older video in which he’s discussing prospective pricing for cosmetic skins for the sci-fi video game Anthem. However, he notes later in the video that the game is likely to be (along with other games), “grindy” (which is gamer-speak for having to multiple “quests” in order to get your character to the appropriate level to face new, harder challenges–i.e., one must “grind” those quests out to be able to grow their character). He notes, with sarcasm, that game companies claim they want gamers to feel a sense of accomplishment for their actions (rolling his eyes all the while).

Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7IKs4d5oj04&t=677s
(Warning NSFW (aka “Salty”) Language

Filling Out Surveys

So the very language that AngryJoe mocks in the video about publishers wanting to be rewarded for their gameplay by feeling a sense of accomplishment is literally in the text of the surveys that game publishers send to gamers on a periodic basis. How do I know? I filled out three of these surveys just this past year alone. Some of the questions are, of course, demographic, as in what age range, what race, what games do you prefer (either a checkbox or pick your top 3), etc. However, when you get into the heart of the survey, the questions usually change to how do you play your games and what are you looking for in the game? Do play to win or to feel a sense of accomplishment, do you usually play with your friends or alone, do you go online to have fun or do you prefer well crafted stories, etc.? Gamers have told companies time and again, through surveys and their buying habits, that they prefer “accomplishment” over well crafted narratives.

The Rise of the “Hard” Game

Not to take anything from those who like “hard” games (like Bloodborne, Dark Souls, and the like), but one of the major tropes that people (pundits and gamers alike) keep saying is that gamers love “hard” games because when you finally beat the game, you feel such a (say it with me) a sense of accomplishment. By choosing hard games (in both social media — to talk about and gush over and by the success of those games), gamers have tacitly given the approval to other studios to introduce mechanics in their game that make the game “grindier” and “less rewarding” than it actually has to be. While cynically motivated to keep gamers playing their games longer, publishers can also justify their actions through the answers on surveys (answers to the “sense of accomplishment” question) and the success of other games.

I remember when Bloodborne came out, a clerk at Gamestop nearly had an apoplectic fit when I told him I was cancelling my preorder. I did so because I do not enjoy “super hard” games, so I would have just been wasting my money. However, he was so invested in the “idea” of “hard gaming” that he couldn’t believe that I wouldn’t want to pound my head up a brick wall of a game for five hours a day before making progress. Having played the ridicously hard games of the Atari 2600 era (River Raid, Pitfall) and the NES era (Ninja Gaiden, The Adventures of Bayou Billy), I’ve more than put in my time on hard games and I can tell you that the sense of accomplishment (for me) was more than off-set by the ever building sense of frustration I had when playing. So, gamers today, by through around this idea of “accomplishment” in gaming, all you’ve done is given license to game publisher to exploit this into “grindy” mechanics to lengthen (some say “pad”) out games and to push narrative further into background. So, the lesson is: think long and hard the next time a survey comes in about whether you play games for the “story” or for a “sense of accomplishment.”

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
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It’s All About the Games, EA!

Image Source: https://www.dexerto.com/business/ea-shares-plummet-after-battlefield-v-delay-announcement-151830

Recently, Andrew Wilson, the current CEO of EA said some things in an investor call that illustrate why I no longer purchase EA games until they are severely discounted, if at all. His comments underscore a deeper problem with EA. It, as a company, is far too invested in what its investors want and not enough invested in what its customers want.

The Customer is Always Right

“The customer is always right” is the primary adage in the business world–that is, until you reach a certain size (Megacorporation size, is what I term it) where the customer no longer becomes the focus (or core) of your business. EA is a gaming company–it creates video games and sells them to people (customers) who enjoy playing them as a diversion or hobby. Like all entertainment media, there is a risk involved that the buying public will not like the product and you will lose money. It is in EA’s interests to minimize this as best they can in order to make a profit, stay in business, and grow as company.

The problem is that based on Andrew Wilson’s comments in the investor call, (and I’m paraphrasing here), he seems to think that most of the problem is a presentation one and that the old ways of marketing don’t work and the company needs to have a conversation with its fans.

Andrew, no. Just no.

I’ve been a “gamer” since 1984 and I saw the rise of EA (then Electronic Arts) from a small game publisher of unique titles (Starflight, Skyfox, The Bard’s Tale series) to their growth with sports titles, into the megacorporation they are now. In their early years, they were focused on compelling content and the selling of games.

Now they are too focused on the idea of services, gimmicks, and the latest gaming crazes put into their games to increase their revenue, whether or not it makes sense to their games (loot boxes anyone?) How does this serve consumer (and please don’t give me the laughable line about “added value”–which is corporate doublespeak for pay us now for the game and pay us later for additional stuff we created in the hopes you’ll give us more money for the same product so we don’t have to take a risk and develop a new product you, as consumers, might not buy from us because its not very good).

The Investor Wants a Quick and Maximum Return on Their Investment

While not wrong, investors don’t really care about games as “art” (good experiences for their company’s customers). They want to get a much money back from their original investment as possible in as short amount of time as possible. Their goals are almost antithetical to that of the company in which they invest (in most cases). They look for the quickest, easiest way of getting money, whether or not that makes sense for the business in question. Don’t believe me, well when EA’s prime competitor Activision, fell on hard times recently, an unnamed investor apparently wondered why Activision didn’t have a game like EA’s suddenly (& surprisingly) successful Apex Legends in its portfolio–or so the story goes–again paraphrasing from sources.

Say what? EA itself didn’t know it was going to be a hit, so how could Activision have known? And now that they do know, what is Activision supposed to do? Make an Apex Legend “clone?” But wait, we already have Apex Legend, why do we need another?

In that particular investor’s mind (which I’m going to extend to cover to most megacorp investors), that thing “over there” is successful and “printing money,” so go do that thing and then we’ll be just as successful and printing money too. The problem is, that in most cases, especially entertainment, that’s not how success works. It has to be both very good and, at the very least, at least mildly original (but usually highly so, or at least original enough within a fairly established genre–which is what Apex Legends was, a “new” & “fresh” take on the Battle Royal genre). Derivatives rarely fare as well as the original, but try telling that to an investor–good luck with that!

Simply put, EA won’t get itself under control (and no other gaming company will either) until it remembers that investors are not its focus–its customers are. Stop trying to “monetize” customers with gimmicks and services and the like for your investors and return to creating compelling content that customers crave and cannot bear to be without and you’ll find that customers will buy your products and your quarters will be (mostly) safe.

In other words, you know those “games” that you think are “old fashioned?” They’re actually what we, your customers, are looking for. Please stop treating us a “resource” to be exploited, but as customers looking for a great product with great value at a reasonable price. If your investors don’t like it, then I humbly submit, that may very well be where your problem, as a megacorporation, actually lies.

Sidney

Please consider supporting these fine small press publishers where my work has appeared:




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft — Character Draft “Finished”)
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Anthem: Wait and See

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know that I’m interested in all varieties of games, from racing to action to shooters. However, I have a soft spot for science fiction action games, no matter the genre (about the only exception to this is “puzzle” games, but even then, if the game maker can really sell me on the concept, I’ll at least take a look). However, after being burned by Mass Effect Andromeda two summers ago, I’ve taken a more “wait and see” approach towards games published by EA (Electronic Arts) as they seem content to release games that are not quite finished in order to 1) not disrupt their “pipeline” with future releases that that have in the works for later in the year and 2) satisfy their investors over their game-playing audience.

Early Reviews

So, Anthem “partially” released to subscribers of EA’s early access “subscription” platform and the reviews have been, for the most part, mediocre. While most praise the graphics and the flying and the gorgeous world, many are also criticizing long load times and the multiplicity of loading screens, bugs/glitches, and a story that doesn’t necessarily delve as deeply as many fans of the developer’s (Bioware’s) stories. Early reviews are generally speaking a 7 out of 10–okay, but not great.

Yes, I know you have a whole slate of games planned for the fall–Jedi: Fallen Order is one that we know of, and rumors persist of a “new” Need for Speed game, but Anthem is an important game for EA, so why not give it the time it needs to finish “baking?”

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

So, I’m waiting on the game, even if EA isn’t willing to do this. EA would prefer that I buy it and wait for them to fix it over the year and make it a good game, so that they already have my money to add to their numbers for their investors. I’m looking for a good product for my purchase price. So, unlike Mass Effect Andromeda, I’m not going to pick up my preorder based on both my perception of the game (in its current state) and the early reviews of the game. While I think that the graphics are top-notch, I’m not as sold on the flying/combat as even the reviewers are based on their reviews, and I’m certainly not impressed by the frequent loading screens. To be honest, the game reminds me of Knights of Legend, an Origin game that really wanted owners to own a hard-drive, but came out on the Commodore 64 (C64) with a disk drive. I was always switching out disks based on whatever activities that I needed/wanted to do–the same seemed true with Anthem. Everything that I was doing seemed to need a load screen (and that’s with the 2nd demo–for me, the first demo was plagued with the “infinite loading screen bug” where I couldn’t even load into a game for most of the afternoon). After buying Mass Effect Andromeda brand new (which also had major issues due to lack of development time), I’m choosing to (at best) wait quite a while before purchasing the game.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)

Weekly Round-Up for February, 18, 2019

Cat dressed up about to blow out birthday candles with the text "Ohh Hello there Birthday Weekend!"
Image Source: https://memegenerator.net/instance/57502522/birthday-cat-ohh-hello-there-birthday-weekend-

So, I’m going to be honest–last weekend was my birthday, so I did not do as much as I normally (probably) should have done, but what can you do? Here’s a round-up of my week last week and the weekend.

Writing

  • So, this is where I fell down the most, as I wasn’t able to get a lot of actual writing done. I’m actually off from my 2nd job tonight, so my goal (in addition to reading for school), is to catch up the writing that I didn’t get done over the weekend.
  • Worked on the character sketch for the protagonist of “Project Dog,” (about half way through).
  • I had a dream last night that might turn into a story at some point (probably a villain/antagonist as that was really what the dream focused on). Of course I didn’t write it down–though, so I’m saying this and by tomorrow, I will have probably forgotten what was so cool about it.

Gaming

  • This is where I actually spent most of my time this weekend (Big surprise, right?) I did way too much in terms of gaming this weekend.
  • Valkyria Chronicles 4: I bought a copy of this game as I’ve wanted it every since it was released in last year. It is a sequel (of sorts) to one of my favorite games on the Playstation 3, Valkyrie Chronicles. It is a tactical rpg in a re-imagined world of World War II. The game is almost an “Alternate History” that uses many points of history of the war to inform the narrative of the story, but many things are changed and given a bit of a “sci-fi” bent (although not too much that it becomes a pure sci-fi narrative).
  • Apex Legends: After earning two second places (or 2nd place twice), I decided my best move was to delete the game from my hard-drive! :0 I know this might seem like a drastic choice, but after starting it at 7:00 pm and looking up and seeing it was 9:17 pm on Sunday night when I’d just intended to play a couple matches to improve my ranking–(if you want to know what happened to my writing this weekend–blame Apex Legends). This game, while a blast, is no good for my PhD aspirations (or my writing goals either.)

Media

  • Finished Babylon 5 this weekend. There’s a write-up coming soon (I’ve actually got a partial draft written) for the blog, but I finally finished the last episode over the weekend and will share my impressions of it soon.
  • Watched a YouTube video that I’d like to turn into a blog post. I’ll have to find it again (I forgot to “Like” it), but still I thought that it would be awesome to use as blog post. Hopefully, I can find it easily and add it to easily to the blog.

Well, that’s all I have at this moment. Will be back with regular blog posts tomorrow.

Sidney




  • Current Work-in-Progress–February 2019: Project Dog  (Sci-Fi Short-Story – 1st Draft)
  • Current Work-in-Progress: Ship of Shadows (Sci-Fi Graphic Novel – Script, Issue # 2, Currently on Script Page 32)