Greatness Delayed Podcast – No Man’s Sky And Stuff

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Mike and Gus talk about Madden ’17, Uno, Absolute Drift, Metal Gear Survive, SFV vs CPU mode, FFXV delay, and of course No Man’s Sky.

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No Man’s Lie?

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Even prior to release, No Man’s Sky had seen its share of controversy.  Sky TV had engaged the developers in a three year legal battle over use of the word ‘Sky’… because fuck if I know.  Hello Games have settled that dispute, although no details have emerged as to how.

Also, less than a month before the game was to hit retail, Dutch company Genicap claimed they own the “Superformula” which No Man’s Sky uses for procedural generation.  According to The New Yorker’s Sean Murray interview/article from 2015:

The problem nagged at him, until he found an equation, published in 2003 by a Belgian plant geneticist named Johan Gielis.Excerpt from The New Yorker’s “World Without End”, 2015

Well, Johan Gielis is the Chief Research Officer at Genicap, allegedly holds the patent for the formula, and did not authorize Hello Games to use it.  That, um, doesn’t sound good for Sean Murray.

But then it happened.  No Man’s Sky was released to the masses, and everything should have been just ducky… but it was less than 24 hours before the internet exploded with rage.

A gamer on Reddit had found a star system that was previously discovered by another user, so he messaged this person to arrange a virtual meet-up.  After lots of searching and even more confusion, they couldn’t find each other.  Even though they were on the same exact spot on the same exact planet, they found themselves alone.

This news spread like wildfire because Mr. Murray had gone on record many times confirming players would be able to see each other in game.  However, Murray had warned that the chance of this happening was very, very slim.

“People keep saying to us, ‘Yeah, but what if I knew where they were?  Would I go there?’  And it’s like, yeah, but they are going to have to stay there for quite a while while you get over there.  And then once you get over there you might land on the same planet and then you will say, ‘I’m on a planet the size of Earth and I am on a mountain.  Where are you?’  Which is, I know, a weird thing and it’s a daunting thing.”

Is there any question in regards to what he’s saying?  He’s saying yes, people can cross paths, but when you take into consideration the size of the universe, as well as the size of any given planet, it’d be like finding a needle in… well, the universe.

And this wasn’t the only time he reinforced the existence of this feature:

Even in this video:

So, does this make Sean Murray a liar?  Some people certainly think so, and to be honest, the evidence IS pretty damning.

Despite the mounting evidence, however, apologists have been coming out in droves.  So, let’s analyze their positions of defense:

“It’s not a multiplayer game!”

I know that, and in fact, most others do, too.  Sean Murray has told us this time and time again.  However, he specifically likens multiplayer to the likes of FPS’s and MMO’s.  Sean and Hello Games have also clarified that even though players will be able to see each other, they won’t be able to pal around and play the game together.  The things you interact with in your world is for you and you alone.  Your paths will cross and that’s it.

So, the fact that this isn’t a traditional multiplayer experience doesn’t negate the idea that these two should have been able to see each other.

To make matters worse, Mr. Murray started to mislead people on Twitter, likely to stave off the sea of doubt beginning to flood his inbox:

“We want people to be aware they are in a shared universe.  We added online features, and some Easter Eggs to create cool moments.”

“Two players finding each other on a stream in the first day – that has blown my mind.”

“We added a ‘scan for other players’ in the Galactic Map to try and encourage this happening.  We wanted it to happen – but the first day?”

Well, no, they didn’t find each other… but these comments were meant to make people believe that they had.  This is not how Mr. Murray should have presented himself to hordes of potential customers who felt they had been lied to for nearly three years.

“The back of the case, as well as the Steam listing, show this as a single player game!”

Package art had actually said otherwise, until they decided to sticker over it:

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So they intended to advertise online play.  Of course, they’ve tried to assure us the printing of the online icon was a mistake, but that reeks of PR nonsense.  Sean Murray advertised being able to see others in the game… and just prior to release, he changes his tune to ‘no multiplayer’, and just out of sheer coincidence a piece of information on the case had to be stickered over?  Come on.  We’re not fucking stupid.

And besides, this argument is missing the point entirely.  This isn’t about whether or not the game is technically multiplayer, or whatever.  It’s about a developer who may have been lying to people for the sake of inflating sales.

Keep in mind that Sony, as their publisher, has a lot of control over what the product messaging should be.  Why is this important?  Well, No Man’s Sky had been cherry picked for hype because Sony’s release schedule – as far as AAA exclusives were concerned – was thin.  I imagine Sony spent a bunch of their money to get this game completed as fast as possible.  But even so, it took three years since its initial reveal to bring it to retail.  This game was also never intended to be sold at full price ($60).  To me, it seems like Sony, who was desperate to get additional exclusives under their belt in 2016, is responsible for driving up the price.

That’s right.  You’re getting a game that was probably meant to be $40, for $60.  Ain’t that great?  So, at the end of the day, Mr. Murray may not have lied just to inflate sales, but to keep Sony happy, too.

“Maybe they were having server issues.”

This could be a valid response.  Players have been experiencing numerous crashes since launch, and some have linked this directly to server issues (turning the internet off seemed to resolve things).  One could also speculate that when push came to shove, explorative discoveries (systems, planets, etc) would prioritize higher than player-to-player ones.  But again, instead of clarifying what may have happened, Sean once again muddied the waters with mixed messaging:

“There are way too many people playing right now.  Maybe some of you can just log out?  Decide amongst yourselves plz.”

“It is a testament to how amazing our network coders are that Discoveries are still working at all.”

But then…

“For instance over night we hit 10 million species discovered in NMS… that’s more than has been discovered on earth.  WHAT IS GOING ON!!!”

So are your problems severe enough to hinder Discoveries, Mr. Murray, or not?

“Well, Mr. Murray did say some pvp stuff might make its way into the game later on…”

And?

They MIGHT incorporate a planet that’s designed after Jurassic Park.  They MIGHT incorporate a planet loaded to the brim with zombies.  They might, they could, they would, they should, blah blah blah.

When you decide to spend $60 on a game, you don’t do it because of what MIGHT appear in the game.  You do it based on what’s going to be there on day 1.  A number of people bought this game because they were led to believe there would be sparks of magic, not unlike Journey, where you’d find another player and have a ‘moment’.  Not because of hype, and not because they were delusional.  No, because SEAN MURRAY told them so.

My Message To The Apologists?  Stand Up For Yourselves!!!

Guys, don’t apologize this away.  You can still appreciate a game while being realistic about the shitty things that come with it.  In this case, when it comes to buying games, consumers have little-to-no protection.  Nobody’s going to bat for us after we’ve been had, so we have to look out for ourselves.

As it is, companies show us very little of their products prior to release, and that’s misleading enough.  But when a developer actually does interviews and sells you on a feature that’s not actually in the game, guess what?  The store isn’t giving you your money back… unless you settle for half in trade at Gamestop.  And that’s only store credit.

You have to decide what’s most important to YOU.  If the game entices you enough despite the controversy, then buy it.  If it doesn’t look to deliver what you wanted, don’t buy it.  If you don’t want to support an alleged liar… don’t buy it.

And I’d like to make one last thing clear before signing off.  I’m not out for blood.  I don’t hate No Man’s Sky.  As a matter of fact, the concept intrigues me enough to pick it up on PC.  I personally don’t care about the reality of this feature.  I never expected I’d run into another person anyway.

But that doesn’t mean Sean Murray’s feet shouldn’t be held to the fire.  They absolutely should be.

I’m going to go into total speculation mode here, and guess that the No Man’s Sky team very much wanted this feature to be a part of the game on day 1.  However, Sony worrying about their lack of exclusives this generation, likely told them to get the core game out of the way and worry about the rest later.  If true, that means Sony’s actually pulling the strings.  Even so, Sean signed the contract.  That makes him liable.  Furthermore, he could be giving straight answers instead of being vague on Twitter (and, at the time of this writing, he’s been offline for about two days).

However, I hope this is all just a misunderstanding.  I hope it really was just a matter of the servers being overloaded… but only time will tell.

Greatness Delayed Podcast – NX and Pricing and Entitlement

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Mike and Gus talk about Pokemon Go, Nintendo NX, some outrageous DLC, and gamer entitlement related to game pricing.

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Greatness Delayed Podcast – Pokemon Violence Gambling Disclosures

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Mike and Gus discuss the Nintendo Mini, Pokemon Go, violence in video games, CS:GO gambling, Shadow of Mordor disclosures, and more!

 

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Listen Up, Fanboys

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E3 was supposed to be Christmas for gamers.  Sure, the conferences exist mostly to appease investors, but this should have been the one time of year internet hate mongers set their differences aside, treat each other like human beings, and rejoice in a weeklong celebration.  Instead, what I’ve seen is a resurgence of the console wars, and it looks even sillier than it did at the beginning of the generation.

Since when did ‘fan’ become synonymous with gnarling your face and spitting the most putrid bile imaginable?  Like, why is this even a thing?  From where I’m sitting, it seems like all it takes is a difference of opinion.  Forget context, forget reason.  Hell, a number of the attacks I’ve seen on the net are completely unsolicited.

Is this really where we’re at?  We’ve struggled for decades to show the world that gamers aren’t childish… and for what?  To ultimately prove that stereotype is true?

Bravo, ladies and gentlemen.  Bravo.

Now, I’m not blanketing my anger over the entirety of the gaming community, but for those of you that have engaged in pointless cock-measurement contests – and you know who you are – I feel a reminder is needed.

In case you’ve forgotten, we’re on the same team… all of us.  So much time is wasted in Sony vs. Microsoft debates, and there’s so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to begin.

How about the fact that this isn’t a two horse race?  Why do people tend to forget about Nintendo?  I know they haven’t done very well with the Wii-U, but it’s still a great platform to play great games on.  Some people even prefer it.  And let’s not forget about the PC, which plays pretty much all third party games and even has some exclusives that can’t be found on consoles.

I don’t think I’m being too idealistic here, either.  If you want to know how dumb it is to compare consoles, just remember that most of what we play are the third party games.  And you know what the conversation centers around when we talk about them?  The games themselves, right?  When you meet up with friends, you might say, “Have you played the new Doom?  It’s freaking awesome!”  They’ll probably nod their heads and say, “Yeah man.  SO much fun!”  Know what they’re NOT going to say?  “Yeah man, totally!  I’ve been playing it on my PS4, and guess what?!  MY DYNAMIC RESOLUTION BUFFER IS BETTER THAN IT IS ON THAT CRAPPY XBOX!”  These conversations don’t happen.  They just don’t.  And when performance IS discussed, it’s because there’s glaring issues that go wayyyyy beyond hardware capability.

See what I’m saying here?  It’s all about the GAMES.  But, since you console warring trolls – again, you know who you are – can’t help but feed your superiority complex, I have a message I want each ‘side’ to consider:

Xbots – You fools.  You damn fools.  Sony fans have been giving you the business for years.  I imagine you’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to show the world you’re classier, more mature… and yet, the moment you felt victory within reach, you lost your minds.  No, really.  You did.  I don’t think you understand just how stupid you’ve looked since the Scorprio was revealed at E3.  It’s been like watching William Wallace’s army in Braveheart when they mooned their enemies… except instead of the ‘freedom’ battle cry, you’ve been banging on about teraflops.  Who cares about freakin’ teraflops?  I don’t.  And you know what’s funny?  Most of you don’t even know what a teraflop is.  All you’ve been doing is parroting the latest buzzword.  And besides, your victory is imagined anyway.  You’re comparing two consoles that have yet to see the light of day.  If that doesn’t make you feel sheepish, then you have a severe lack of self-awareness, my friends.

Sony Ponies – Yeah, the Xbots are coming off like a bunch of delusional lunatics right now, but to be fair, this is how your fan base has looked throughout the entirety of this generation.  900p or 1080p, 30fps or 60fps… who gives a shit?  You act like hardware performance is the most important thing in the world, but if you really felt that way, you’d buy a PC.  It’s really that simple.  Why compare nickels to quarters when you can get those dolla dolla bills, y’all?  And, I know what you’re going to say, too.  “Not everyone can afford a PC!”  True.  Consoles are less expensive than a PC.  There’s no denying that.  But I see a ton of you excited to drop at least another $400 on the Neo… after having already spent $400 on the OG PS4.  That’s $800 in a single generation… just for hardware.  You could have spent that money up front to get a machine that was capable of Neo-like graphics a while ago.  “But Sony are for the players!”  Nope.  They’re not.  They’re the same as any other major corporation out there.  They’ll smile in your face while they reach for the wallet resting in your back pocket.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve gotten a lot of use out of my PS4, but that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with bowing at Yoshida’s feet.

And while we’re talking about console fanboys being a little too mouthy for their own good, there’s a couple other camps that also need to be addressed:

Nintendo Fans – You are, undoubtedly, the nicest fan base of the bunch… but some of you take your affection for this brand wayyyyy too seriously.  Yes, Nintendo is a great place to play great games that can’t be found elsewhere.  But some of you straight-up pretend that games on other platforms aren’t any fun.  I totally get that we’re inundated with annual franchises and iterative formulas, but I still – and this is coming from someone who loves Nintendo – find plenty of great games to play.  Unfortunately, some of you believe it’s your job to hype the company up, and feed their bottom line by supporting every shitty business decision they’ll ever make.  Folks, on occasion, it’s OK to hold Nintendo’s feet to the fire.  You won’t lose your fan badge.  I promise.  Complaining is the only way to keep major corporations reasonably ‘honest’.  Do you really think having DLC in physical form is a good idea, especially in such short supply?  How about the short charge life on the Wii-U gamepad’s battery?  Have gimmicky controllers ever made any of their games better?  You don’t have to shy away from these issues.  I’ve made my feelings quite clear on Nintendo’s business practices (read here and here), and yet, I still enjoy their games.  I still consider myself a fan.  Crazy, right?

PC Master Race – With a name like ‘master race,’ you’d think some level of ACTUAL superiority would come into play… but oh, the hypocrisy.  You act like gaming on a PC puts you above the squabbles of console fans, yet you actively seek opportunities to fight with them, to let them know how much better your rig is, and likely has been for years.  But at the end of the day, you’re no better than those people, especially since you fight amongst yourselves over which brand of GPU is best.  I see hateful AMD vs. Nvidia arguments far too often, and I’ve only been actively looking in on those conversations since the beginning of 2016.  This year, PC has been my platform of choice, but your community is by far the most negative.  Outside of those pitiful GPU battles, you also come off as spoiled brats who won’t spend more than $5 per game.  Oh, and you try way too hard to justify piracy.  As gamers, we should all want to ensure devs get paid for the games we’re about to enjoy.  I get you want a better deal and all, but even without taking advantage of Ebay-like sites, pricing on PC games have been WAY better than anything I’ve seen in the console market.  There’s zero need to steal stuff.  So, when you cry a game isn’t within your insulting price range, I’ve got zero tears to shed.

Look, at the end of the day, we’re all gamers.  Is it really worth arguing over minor fluctuations in performance?  No.  Of course it isn’t.  For the most part, we’re still playing the same exact games.  There’s only two times off the top of my head where I felt a noticeable difference because of a change in platform:

Dragon Age Origins – Its battle system was designed around a keyboard and mouse, and unfortunately, that means the console iterations had to suffer.  Having played both PC and console versions of Origins, I can tell you that playing on a PC is almost like playing an entirely different game.  I’ll never play this on consoles again.

Diablo III – Oddly enough, Diablo III’s situation is precisely the opposite.  While the mouse and keyboard configuration worked well enough, hacking-and-slashing at a thousand clicks a minute wasn’t very comfortable.  In Blizzard’s quest for more money, however, Diablo III was eventually ported to consoles.  Not content with following in the steps of Dragon Age, Blizzard worked hard on ensuring the game felt nice to play on a controller.  Well, not only does it feel nice, it is, in my opinion, the definitive way to play the game.  Not sure they’ll ever convince me to play the PC version again… unless they patch in controller support at a later date.  Seriously Blizzard, why haven’t you done this yet?!

I’m sure you guys have some other examples where gameplay itself can change from one platform to the next, but point is, these are exceptions to the rule.  So, stop your squabbling.  You’re wasting your time on that ‘mine is better than yours’ crusade.  The cold, hard truth is that each platform comes with its own unique set of flaws.  So, when you make it a point to attack another ‘side’ of the equation… well, you know what they say: “Don’t throw stones in a house of glass.”

My goal today wasn’t to just sit here and sling a bunch of shit talk your way, so please, don’t take it like that.  Instead, I’ve merely attempted to show you all how foolish you look when you behave like children, a look which gamers simply do not need perpetuated by people who aren’t secure in the financial decisions they’ve made.  Game on, everyone… but please, let’s do it quietly, or at the very least, positively.

Possible effects of Brexit on the games industry: a tentative list

As you probably already know, UK and Commonwealth citizens voted in a referendum on 23rd June to leave the European Union. This is predicted to have widespread effects on various economic and political issues, though as for what the precise effects will be, nobody knows just yet. The new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will have anywhere between a couple of days to approximately 6 months to trigger Art. 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which is a fancy way of saying the UK will hand in its resignation letter to the European Union; after that, the terms of Britain’s “Brexit” will be negotiated for a maximum of 2 years. The reason why nobody can say for sure what the precise effects of Brexit will be is because it all depends on this negotiation period; it could be that very little changes, or it could be that Britain retains its “European-ism” purely by way of its geographical location.

Brexit could potentially impact a variety of serious issues, such as migration, trade deals and laws on farming/environmental protection, so it might seem a bit unusual to ask what the effects may be on the video game industry. However, this could potentially affect people’s livelihood and major hobbies, so it is worth pausing for thought on how the industry could change – or indeed how it may escape unscathed.

POSITIVE: distribution of employment/studios may be on a more equal footing

For gaming production companies based in the United Kingdom, such as Rockstar North, membership of the EU made it much easier to communicate with its subsidiaries/sister companies also based in EU Member States. In addition, hiring EU citizens above, say, US citizens was a little bit easier, due to the freedom of movement rules in the EU which remove the need for work visas to employ such members of staff. You could argue that this skews such studios towards being more Eurocentric; there is now no incentive to bias operations and employment towards fellow Europeans, and we will see a wider mix of influences on the work produced by these companies, as they begin to employ more US, Australian etc nationals.

NEGATIVE: not as easy to employ EU citizens at UK companies, and vice versa

Imagine you’re a Brit and you aspire to work at Ubisoft Montpelier on the next Rayman game, or you’re intent on moving to Finland to work for Rovio on the next Angry Birds expansion. Before Brexit, you could be rest assured that there’d be no need for visas or any sort of residence permits to stay in the country you’d have to move to. While for those with language skills, a high level of formal education or perhaps a partner in their country of destination, a visa may have been easy to get, this still cuts through a layer of red tape that would otherwise be there. However, in a post-Brexit world where freedom of movement has been restricted, this extra level of bureaucracy would suddenly become necessary. While if a company really wants to employ you, this may not be such a big deal, a lot of companies may be bothered by the extra paperwork and simply favour an employee from France, Spain or another Member State, where this alternative candidate is of comparable talent to you or even slightly less competent for the job. This could make British production companies and British game production staff quite isolationist, and at its worst could lower the quality of output that affected companies can maintain.

POSITIVE: UK’s less Eurocentric focus may forge better links with US/Japanese studios, breaking down market barriers

Those eagerly waiting on Persona 5 will already know the story: both Japan and the US have a fixed release date, while Europe does not. In fact, it was only last week that the game definitely coming to Europe, through Atlus (which doesn’t have a basis in Europe) partnering with Deep Silver once again after its partnership with NIS broke down. It could be argued that these difficulties arise because markets are quite insular; the business benefits from trading within Europe and finding your employment basis therein don’t create the ideal arena within which to break down Transatlantic or East/West boundaries. It could be that the loss of these benefits would create the impetus to shift focus elsewhere. If the UK forges some generous agreements with the US or other countries in the aftermath, they could see the UK as the perfect hub for opening more international offices, resulting in quicker European release dates for some games; it’s also possible that such agreements could make importing games from the US/Japan cheaper.

NEGATIVE: importing within Europe could become more expensive and game versions could change

My fellow eBay bidders will appreciate that buying from the UK or neighbouring countries whilst in continental Europe can be a cost-effective way of getting hold of rare gems. The UK is a surprisingly cheap-ish place to find older PAL games thanks to CeX and its ilk, and while postage fees can run a tad higher than when I buy games off German sellers, it tends to be competitive compared to buying from Austria, for example (you’d think it’d be cheaper as Germany’s neighbour). The fraying of the common market with the UK could put an end to this, as import fees are slapped on and shipping instead becomes comparable – from the UK to Germany and vice versa – with importing from the US.

Furthermore, Europe has traditionally had 1 version of a game, with different censorship labels slapped on depending on the country. Older games had a language select screen; newer games detect which language the system is set to and adjusts accordingly. Some games are admittedly English language with subtitles regardless of location thanks to budgetary constraints. A notable exception to this is NES carts, which are split into PAL-A and PAL-B (UK and Italy being A, alongside Australia, with the rest of continental Europe being B). What we could see more of, if a closer US-UK trade tie develops, is the UK instead getting the US version of some games. It might also get its own separate version of games. With the latter option, this could either be a positive or a negative, as there would be more versions for budding collectors to buy, if their collection is international. As a clear negative, it could mean that those living in mainland Europe who can only speak English, and are not fluent in the language of the country they are living in, may find themselves unable to play the local versions of certain games if the English language component is removed, instead having to import a UK, US or Australian version. A lot of this is very speculative or even unlikely, but the possibility of the UK uniting with the US on gaming matters, to the extent that we become an NTSC country, is impossible because of what NTSC/PAL variation actually means: see here for an explanation. This inability to make a clean swap may complicate game production matters and slow production down.

NEUTRAL: censorship changes

It’s worth mentioning that censorship is unlikely to be affected very much by Brexit. The reason for this is that the European standard, PEGI, has not been especially restrictive as its own measure. It has instead been national certification standards that tend to border on the draconian in their stringency, and there’s no reason to believe these will soften post-Brexit. Taking Germany as an example, it is the FSK that mandates that selling 18+ games requires ID even through online sales, and that PS Plus membership requires entering your ID details into the PS Store system. Furthermore, it is the FSK and, in the UK, the BBFC which have had serious gripes (understandably so) with games such as Manhunt 2. Since PEGI tends to act as a bare minimum standard, even leaving PEGI completely is unlikely to create much of an impact in the UK, unless the UK suddenly becomes extremely liberal in its assessment of games. If we cast the net wider and consider the whole “video nasties” era of film censorship in the UK, it is highly unlikely this will happen, to the extent it is not worth considering too heavily.


In conclusion, there are a large amount of potential knock-on effects on the gaming communities in UK and mainland Europe, assuming that Brexit is going full steam ahead. This remains a speculative list though, as a picture is emerging of a bunch of politicians finger-pointing, with no clear policies on the horizon. Once Art. 50 of the Lisbon Treaty has been triggered by the next Prime Minister, either Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom, we’ll start to get a better idea of how all industries, never mind the games industry, will be affected. Until then, we can enjoy the gaming benefits (or downsides) that are part and parcel of the UK being a Member of the EU.