Battlefront II: Initial Impressions

There’s been a lot of controversy around Battlefront II, and that’s putting it nicely. The gaming community has made it clear time and time again that they don’t want microtransactions or loot boxes in their $60 games, but it’s painfully clear these business models aren’t going away. We can protest as much as we want, but they cost next to nothing for studios to implement. Regardless of the (good) fight the core gamers are waging online, one thing they don’t take into consideration is that they are the minority. Casual gamers make up a pretty sizeable chunk of sales, and as Ubisoft has just proven – microtransactions are surpassing their digital distribution sales – they’ll subsequently spend money on microtransactions and loot boxes.

I’ve played some Battlefront II, and I thought I should share my initial impressions with you guys. Before I do that, let me be clear: I don’t like microtransactions and I don’t like loot boxes. I wish they weren’t part of the gaming landscape… but they are. Knowing this, how you decide to speak with your wallet is entirely up to you, but I’m going to try and help you make as informed a decision as possible.

How Prevalent Is The Card System?

Anyone who thinks they’re going to play this game and escape the card system are absolutely fooling themselves. It’s your primary progression system, and the acquisition of cards is done via loot boxes… and yes, you can buy loot boxes with real world money. But how terrible is this system, really?

EA needs to do a bit more tweaking, I think. There’s a few different kinds of crates you can buy with credits earned in-game, but the most expensive, and most important one is undoubtedly the Trooper Crate, which provides access to new weapons and abilities and costs 4,000 credits. Sounds like a fairly high number, and it is, at least a little. Each round of online play will last about 10 minutes, and sometimes you can earn as little as 200 credits, or as much as 400 (these numbers are based on my personal experience with the game, and they seem to vary based on actual in-game performance). This means that at the very least, if you’re a really great player, it’s going to take you over and hour and a half to obtain a Trooper Crate. Keep in mind, this is without obtaining credits through other means.

Along the way, you’ll also earn credits by completing certain incentivized goals the game has set up, and boosts the amount of credits you earn in a fairly substantial way. In fact…

Heroes

A majority of the discussion online has been centered around key characters, such as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, originally costing 60,000 credits. That’s an insanely substantial grind, and it was what ultimately made me say, “Nope, not buying this game.” After the backlash online, they’ve revised the hero costs to be 75% less, so Vader and Luke are now 15,000 credits apiece. I’ve probably spent 3 and a half hours in multiplayer thus far, and with the credits I’ve earned in game as well as the challenge rewards credits I’ve earned, I’ve already unlocked Darth Vader and I’m halfway to Luke Skywalker. So, the grind here has been pretty reasonable.

It’s worth noting that the game does have a number of heroes and villains unlocked at the start, such as Rey, Kylo Ren, Han Solo, and Yoda. Honestly, I wanted to experience these characters more than the others, as I’ve already spent a good amount of time playing as Luke and Darth in the last game. I’m not excusing the devs for gating characters in the first place, as it clearly shouldn’t have been done, but unlocking them doesn’t seem to be a chore… at least not yet.

Multiplayer

The beta didn’t shine this game in the best light. 90% of my playtime was spent helping a ship get from point A to point B, which was way too linear for my liking.

The multiplayer I’ve experienced in the full however feels much, much better.

If there’s one thing about the last Battlefront that was frustrating, it was that the previously designed levels, as much as I loved them, were probably too open for their own good. Stick your head out but a little, and someone’s going to start picking at you from a mile away. Of course, servers allowed up to 40 people to participate. I think games are up to 28 now, and the maps, while still allowing plenty of room to breathe, have been crafted a bit more carefully. They’re tighter, but not to the point of inducing claustrophobia. There’s a lot more cover when traversing from point A to point B. These are pretty solid improvements.

One thing you’re not going to see is Walker Assault… at least, not as you knew it. This time, Rebels must work their way to points on the map which have rocket launchers. Someone needs to pick it up, give it a moment to warm up, and then let loose. If they manage to pull this off before getting pulverized by the opposition, and the hit is successful, the AT-AT’s systems will be temporarily compromised, allowing your team to start draining its health.

I haven’t really spent enough time to determine what the balancing issues are, though, so I can’t really comment on that just yet. But overall, in some ways, I’d say the standard multiplayer this time around is better than ever, especially the Heroes vs. Villains mode.

The star this time, however, are the flying maps. Flying takes a little getting used to but feels great once you do, and the level designs are jaw-dropping. Remember that place from Episode II where all the clones were being made? That facility out in the rough ocean where the rain was pouring like crazy? You need to see this map in action.

Single Player

I’ve spent about an hour, hour and a half in the single player mode, and I’ve been having quite a bit of fun with it. One thing that’s an absolute strength is that they’re changing the method of play every so often. One minute you’re utilizing a flying droid to get around a rebel base, the next you’re running around going ‘pew-pew’, and the next you’re flying and dogfighting. I’ve heard that it’s a 5-6 hour campaign, so that’s not going to be worth the price of admission for most people alone. Thankfully, this new iteration of Battlefront is relying on a single game mode, and is offering a number of different options between the campaign, the arcade mode (pretty much Skirmish), and the numerous modes of multiplayer. This actually feels like a complete package (minus the loot box stuff, of course).

The arcade mode has a pretty stupid time gate on it, though, because the developers don’t want you to earn credits through it all day without ever touching multiplayer. They’ve said this is to prevent people from messing up the multiplayer system by earning too much too quick, but their intentions couldn’t have been more transparent. They just want to make sure you still have an incentive to buy loot boxes than to find an easily grindable way to earn them yourself.

Overall

Keep in mind that these are only my initial impressions with the game, but I’m going to echo what most other reviewers have been saying. Battlefront II, from a gameplay perspective, is a solid experience. I’ve spent more time these last two years playing Battlefront, and I see myself spending hundreds of hours on this game, too. Could it be better? Absolutely. Would I recommend this to everyone? No, not with the current progression system. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone for hating this game because of what the publisher has done. It’s a shame that stuff has to paint part of the picture as a whole, but it does. But for me, for my money, Battlefront II is a blast. I’m having more than enough fun playing the game as-is. Unlocking weapons through a grind was part of the last game, too, and microtransactions weren’t part of that equation. Now that they are… well, you’re still grinding for new weapons. Most of the additional weapons I personally couldn’t care less about… not in the last game, and not in this one.

Here’s hoping that EA makes more changes in the future so that more and more people feel comfortable hopping aboard, but as someone who really enjoyed the last Battlefront game, I’m extremely happy with the current product (as in, now that they’ve reduced the amount of time to grind for heroes).

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Bethesda’s ‘Not Pay Mods’

creation_club_1

These days, Bethesda has quite the reputation. They’ve delivered countless hours of exploratory joy with The Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises, and have published a number of successful games besides (such as Doom, Dishonored, The Evil Within, Prey, Wolfenstein: The New Order, and more). When it comes to making games that sell, they’re on top of the world… and they know it. That’s why they’ve recently launched the ‘Creation Club’.

The Creation Club is a way for Bethesda and third-party creators to make new content for games and submit them for internal review. This quality control ensures that whatever you acquire is actually going to work, unlike other mods which have the potential to make your game unstable. Because this takes time and resources for Bethesda to stay on top of, there are fees involved.

And it boils my blood. Not because of the money, but because of how Bethesda are positioning this.

The Creation Club idea may sound innocent enough, but Bethesda, in conjunction with Valve, revealed a non-curated approach to paid mods back in 2015, and the internet, rightfully so, had exploded in anger. You don’t start to sell something that’s been free since the dawn of (gaming) time. Just because Microsoft and Sony have added paywalls to online access, doesn’t mean it’s a free-for-all out there.

PC gamers love that particular platform because it gives them endless possibilities which consoles aren’t capable of. Mods have ranged from skins to full blown gameplay expansions, and best of all, it was free. Every bit of it. It’s content that’s been created by and for fans because they’re passionate enough to do so, not because they want to make a quick buck. Some of the more well-known modders have Patreons if you’d like to donate some money out of sheer appreciation, but their content remains free.

But hey, leave it to Bethesda to monetize something that’s free. Because, you know… Bethesda.

Fortunately, the outrage was enough to cause the publisher to cancel their plans a week after announcing them.

And now here comes the Creation Club, a thinly veiled attempt at reintroducing paid mods. And I say thinly veiled because Bethesda are position this as… actually, let me rephrase this. They’ve flat out denied that the Creation Club is a paid mods platform:

“Is Creation Club paid mods?”

No. Mods will remain a free and open system where anyone can create and share what they’d like. Also, we won’t allow any existing mods to be retrofitted into Creation Club, it must all be original content. Most of the Creation Club content is created internally, some with external partners who have worked on our games, and some by external Creators. All the content is approved, curated, and taken through the full internal dev cycle; including localization, polishing, and testing. This also guarantees that all content work together. We’ve looked at many ways to do “paid mods”, and the problems outweigh the benefits. We’ve encountered many of those issues before. But, there’s a constant demand from our fans to add more official high quality content to our games, and while we are able to create a lot of it, we think many in our community have the talent to work directly with us and create some amazing new things.”

Yeah, that all sounds well and good, but it stinks. It stinks because it doesn’t make any damn sense. In the Creation Club, you have to buy virtual currency with real world money, and then use that digital currency to purchase mods.

Sounds an awful lot like paid mods, doesn’t it? I mean, you’re giving them money, and you’re getting mods in return, right? Yeah. That’s because they’re paid mods.

As mentioned earlier, Bethesda tried to pull this nonsense a couple of years ago. Valve asked Bethesda if they’d be open to a paid mods thing, Bethesda said ‘you’re damn right we are’, and fans shut them down. Instead of taking the hint that gamers want nothing to do with paid mods, they shelved the idea for a couple of years so they could come up with a fancy name and some bullshit PR babble, hoping people wouldn’t notice that the paid mods idea didn’t actually go away, but was just retooled.

Lying to fans and customers is about the most despicable thing a company can do. It tells us they have the bravado to say whatever, and do whatever they want because they think we’re too stupid to read between the lines. But we aren’t, and video game journalists haven’t been either. Most headlines in regards to the Creation Club are some iteration of, ‘Bethesda Introduces Paid Mods!’ Say what you will about gaming journalists, but at least they call a spade a spade when crap like this comes up.

Fortunately, Bethesda has made it clear that free mods will still be allowed, but considering how backhanded they’re being with the announcement of their Creation Club, but again, they’re full of crap. They have absolutely screwed over the whole ‘free mods’ thing.

The Creation Club update is mandatory, and when it went live, it changed at least one game’s .exe file, causing F4SE (a script extender which is essential for many mods) to stop working. Script extenders pretty much need to be updated each time the game updates, but assuming the Creation Club files will be updated on a regular basis, that’s going to turn into a full time job for community modders, which may only incentivize them to quit.

And by the way, when I say the Creation Club update is mandatory, that includes all the content available through it. Yep, you’re going to have a lot of useless crap on your hard drive, and there’s not much you can do about it. Some have theorized that Bethesda are doing this to get around Sony’s rules about 3rd party content by wrapping it all into the game itself, but that’s hardly a good solution. In fact, it’s fucking terrible. Why would this affect PC and Xbox One users, then? A 2.1 GB update shouldn’t be forced down anyone’s throat if it’s not vital to run the game.

Furthermore, the Creation Club is breaking people’s free mods… mods which worked perfectly fine before the update. This is because mod load order – which is essential for ensuring everything loads properly and plays nicely with each other – is being affected. Mods are now forced to load in alphabetical order, meaning your free mods aren’t going to work. I’ll assume this is a bug, but you never know.

Last but certainly not least, it seems Pipboy skins refuse to work with any other free mod installed. Once other free mods are removed, the Pipboy skins will work.

I normally don’t condone piracy unless it’s firmly authorized by the devs, but you know what? Go for it. You can use all this new content for free because it’s easily crackable. Unpack the Creation Club .BSA, rename it, and then run the game. Tada! You have all the Creation Club content for free!

Except it’s all boring as piss, and all the free stuff is better.

Another way around this is to, if you haven’t updated through Steam yet, to use F4SE.exe to open the game exclusively, and tell Steam to not update the game unless you launch it (directly from Steam). That way you’ll never have to worry about updating the game when you don’t want to.

I won’t get into the whole ‘slippery slope’ discussion, because I know that’s an anecdotal part of the conversation at best. Still, there is precedence for other companies to follow suit when an idea bears fruit (money) for someone else… and that’ll be the worst if it happens. Just the absolute fucking worst.

After all is said and done, Bethesda probably would have garnered more respect and less outrage if they had just announced this program like this:

“Hello! We’re introducing the Creation Club, a place where you can buy first and third party created mods. These paid mods will mostly come from you, and you can submit them to us for internal review, and as long they pass our qualitative standards, they’ve be available from the Creation Club shop and you can earn a bit of money, too!” That still doesn’t make the whole thing about breaking free mods any better though, especially since they said free mods were still OK.

Telling the truth is groundbreaking shit, I know. But, no, we got two lies here for the price of one. They ARE paid mods and free mods ARE being affected.  Period. Here’s to hoping the backlash online causes Bethesda to once again rethink their position on paid DLC, because this isn’t going to end well for them.

E3 Impressions – Monday, Forward

OK, so as promised, I’m back to talk about Monday’s conferences at E3 2017. But be warned, I wasn’t thrilled with what I saw.

I didn’t bother with the PC conference. Every year there’s pretty much nothing I’m interested in. At all. And based on what I was reading last night, I didn’t really miss anything.

A little later there was the Ubisoft conference. For a little while, I really thought they were trying to change. This company has been in danger of being run by Vivendi for some time now, and in my opinion, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ it happens, but a matter of ‘when’… and yet, they’re still going against the grain, churning out stuff their fans have been growing frustrated with for some time now.

Alright, so at first glance, Mario & Rabbids looks gorgeous and definitely had the potential to be a fun title. Unfortunately, it’s this strategy game where you’re essentially playing chess on a battlefield. I can’t see this game selling that well, unless it’s by people who own a Switch that are desperate for new games.

Next up was Assassin’s Creed: Origins. They didn’t show any gameplay here, just cinematics of the setting. I LOVE the setting by the way, and it’s made this installment in the franchise a must own for me, but let’s just get this out of the way, since it’s prevalent over Ubi’s entire show: Gamers don’t want cinematic trailers. They want gameplay. Stop this nonsense. We want real looks at these games.

The Crew 2: The sequel literally nobody had asked for. Ever. The original was basically a driving game that somehow managed to wedge Ubi’s usual mechanics into it (climbing towers to see more of the map, that kind of thing)… and the game wasn’t very well received. That didn’t stop Ubi from making a sequel though. Why this game exists, I’ll never know.

South Park The Fractured But-Whole is something I’ve been really excited to play. I was skeptical of The Stick of Truth when it came out, but I’m glad I purchased it, because it was an amazing little RPG. The only thing that concerns me is that they’re revealing a release date in October, when I thought it had been delayed beyond that. Oh, they showed off a South Park mobile game too.  Ubisoft, keep your mobile trash out of my E3.

They had a trailer for a VR game that really didn’t let us know what we were in for. They had Elijah Wood and others basically explaining the concept and… well, that was it. I wish I had these minutes of my life back.

Skull and Bones… well, let’s just call this what it is: Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag’s naval combat system copy and pasted, but with a single player aspect stripped out, and online only. They had the nerve to say this is what people have been wanting. No, you dumb idiots, people have wanted an actual pirate game, not a multiplayer naval battle title that had very little effort behind it. I mean, the NERVE to just steal the same mechanics from Black Flag and then show it off as a new game. By the way, a lot of the games that are being mentioned by Ubisoft have this ‘always online’ component to it, which means they’re not letting go of that idea… and probably never will. Gamers complain about this constantly, and yet they wonder why some of their sales have been dipping? I love Assassin’s Creed and all, but everything this company does basically says, “Our ears our shut and/or we don’t care.” It’s since been said that the game may actually have a single player campaign, but I’d wager it’s lazily tacked on, such as it was with For Honor.

Just Dance 2018’s reveal was… well, lame. There was some weird dance routine live on-stage, which gamers don’t care about. They want to see games, not theatrics. And then, to endorse the game, they bring out a pretty music ‘star’… and by ‘star’, I mean that nobody has ever heard of this girl before. Why even bother?

Starlink: Yeah, let me strap a toy to my controller and go to town playing games with it. Pass.

Steep: Oh boy, Olympics gaming. Pass.

Far Cry 5: I loved Far Cry 3, Far Cry 4 was also good but just more of the same, and this one… I don’t really care for what I’m seeing. Bringing it to such a typical location instead of somewhere exotic sort of defeats the ‘escape’ that made the others so great to begin with.

Beyond Good and Evil 2: It’s cool when sequels to games from generations ago come along, but what the hell did we just see? This is supposed to look enticing? Insta-pass.

What a waste of a conference.

Sony, on the other hand, was much better… although still a disappointment. When you open your show with a couple of DLC releases, you know there might be a problem…

Apparently, Knack 2 wasn’t cool enough to be shown off during their actual conference. A trailer was shown before, and the game is out in just a few months. Way to back your game, Sony. Don’t wonder why this one doesn’t sell well… it’s because you aren’t backing your horse in the race. Too bad, because I’ll get it day 1 because I loved the first.

Anyway, yeah, that DLC was Uncharted: The Lost Legacy and Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds. Uncharted looks pretty darn good but it’ll be a turn-off if it’s as cinematic heavy as Uncharted 4. Horizon… I haven’t played enough of the base game to really comment on this and how I feel about this DLC.

Days Gone is interesting. It looks to have top notch production, it could perhaps have a great story, and the acting is certainly great. That said, I didn’t really care for the gameplay I saw. It was like The Last of Us and Uncharted had a baby, and while those are both great games, that makes Days Gone just look way too iterative. I can pass on this.

Monster Hunter World: Never played a Monster Hunter game before, but this looked cool.

Shadow of the Colossus remake: I never played the original, though I always wanted to. Now is my time. I’ll be getting this immediately.

Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite: Ha. Hahaha. AHHHHHH HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! This. Looks. Terrible.

Call of Duty WW2: See, when I think Call of Duty, this is the kind of game I want. I’ll be playing this one for sure.

A bunch of PSVR games: Snore. The most hilarious reveal was what basically amounted to Final Fantasy XV, the ‘fishing’ edition. I could have peed my pants from laughter.

God of War: The approach to this game looks great. I like the older Kratos that’s basically living with his past, and somehow has to straddle the line between becoming that bad guy once again to destroy all these enemies, or refrain a bit as to teach his son not to follow in his old footsteps. And as usual for God of War, looks like we’ve got some pretty epic stuff in store. Day 1.

Detroit: Love the concept but it’s not a game I have any interest in playing.

Destiny 2: Sure looks to be a far cry from the original Destiny. But I was burned so bad by the first one that I’m not really interested in this. Maybe my mind changes after I see a significant amount of gameplay on Twitch, but I somehow doubt it.

Spider-Man: Insomniac is a great team, and everyone expected this Spidey game to be AMAZING… and while the production value is certainly there, all we saw was a bunch of cinematics that were interrupted frequently by quick time events. Pretty much lost my interest for this one last night.

Nintendo had their usual ‘online only’ presentation, and it lasted roughly 25 minutes. I actually liked most of what they had shown.

First was Xenoblade Chronicles 2. It look like it’s a lot of fun, but something about the presentation doesn’t really seem as nice as what we previously had in the Wii game. The character designs leave a bit to be desired as well, and while that may sound petty, I think it’s a really important issue when a franchise like this demands so much of your time.

Kirby is also coming to the Switch, and you know what? Forget all the haters. I really, really, really like those platform Kirby games. My only issue with what I’m seeing is that I saw literally nothing which distinguishes it from OTHER Kirby titles.

Nintendo don’t seem to have too much coming out, first party wise at least, in the next year or so. They have some major titles, some being system sellers for sure, but they’re lacking on upcoming games… so they revealed a couple of big things that fans have been dying for.

First, a proper Pokemon RPG for the Switch. FINALLY a Pokemon RPG for a home console. I’m not big on Pokemon myself, but this will excite a lot of people.

There’s also Metroid Prime 4 is super early development, and later this year we’ll be seeing a nice remake of Metroid II for the 3DS.

Yoshi’s coming to the Switch as well… and I love Yoshi games, I do. But this one seems like it really may be a little too plain, and for a much younger audience than Yoshi titles are typically for. We’ll have to see as we get closer to launch, though.

They also showed off a bit of the Zelda DLC coming but, that’s the last thing on my mind. With my schedule, I doubt I’ll be able to even finish the core game.

Rocket League is going to be a nice addition for Nintendo fans. It’s coming to the Switch, and while I won’t be buying it for this platform (I own it on PS4 and PC), anyone who doesn’t already own this game should jump on it.

Super Mario Odyssey just looks absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

So, overall, I think Nintendo did alright but their showing was rather anemic. We had a good 5 minutes of DLC, and some reveals which we didn’t even catch a glimpse of production art for. For a 25 minute presentation, it leaves a bit to be desired.

So, now that all my E3 impressions are up, I’m going to go back into hiding for a bit. This was just too big a week to let slip by without talking about the most important gaming event of the year.

E3 – First Weekend Impressions

The first days of E3 were rather bland, at least for me. To be fair though, I’m rather jaded at this point. A lot of the games I’m seeing being announced and released are mostly iterative of each other, minus the smaller, indepdendent games. Sure, there’s an exception here and there, and I mostly find that exception to be ‘Nintendo’, who has shown with Zelda: Breath of the Wild, that they can still deliver fantastic games. 

This year alone, Nintendo will be churning out Splatoon 2 and Mario Odyssey… this, in addition to Skyrim (which I’m likely not going to purchase since the updgraded PC version was so good), and some notable other titles. I’m good on the Nintendo Switch. It’s already provided some of the most fun I’ve had in years, between Zelda and Mario Kart.

 EA provided me with a little interest. Battlefront II is a game I’m most definitely going to get on day 1. The last game is what I’ve probably spent the most time on over the last year and a half. I can still pick it up and have a total blast playing it, so that’s a no-brainer. Anthem looks alright, but I have to see more before I even begin to get excited for it. A Way Out has an interesting premise, but I’m not sure I’m sold on the idea of a co-op prison break game… I prefer single player experiences most of the time. Need For Speed Payback needs to be a bajillion percent stellar in order to make me interested, as that franchise hasn’t really delivered in a while. Don’t care much about Madden, but it’s been a few years since I picked one up, so this might be the year. The other sports games I couldn’t care less about.

 Microsoft focused on games above all else, and I’m glad they finally figured that out. Unfortunately, most of the titles they had shown weren’t exclusives, and the titles that were, had only been ‘launch exclusive’ titles, meaning they’ll be available elsewhere shortly thereafter. Why is Microsoft spending so much money on fake exclusivity deals? They really need to invest in some other exclusives, otherwise people are going to look elsewhere, as they have been throughout this entire generation. The $500 price point for the Xbox One X is also a facepalm sort of moment. 500 smackaroos is largely what pushed people away from the Xbox One and firmly onboard the PS4… yet, here they are again releasing another machine at a similar price point. At least it’s a powerful machine this time around, but still, it seems like too little, too late. What does interest me, are the Minecraft announcements, Cuphead, Ori, and Life Is Strange: Before the Storm. What looks decent but hasn’t sold me is The Last Night, Black Desert, Code Vein, and Ashen. Sea of Thieves actually now holds my interest. The footage of that game is the first I’ve seen that actually lets me know what the potential of this game is, and it looks like a ton of fun. Still, I’m not sure how long I could get lost in that game before growing bored of it. I didn’t really care about what I saw in the Crackdown 3 trailer. Shadow of War seems… alright? I’m not really that interested in playing it at the moment. I’m also wicked down for Assassin’s Creed: Origins, because that Egypt setting looks like an amazing playground to stomp around in, and I’ve always been a sucker for this franchise anyway. All in all, their conference was decent on its own, but in the grand scheme of things, announcing a $500 console and a bunch of ‘not really exclusive’ titles isn’t really that smart. Oh, and original Xbox support? That’s pretty cool, and I may actually pick up a couple of games to play as a result, but I’m not sure it’s going to entice TOO many people. Oh, and that cutesy 3D platforming game they showed off? I love games with a retro vibe, but what worries me about that game is that it doesn’t appear to have anything in the way of difficulty. Too bad.

 Bethesda was pretty much a borefest. Doom and Fallout 4 in VR, big whoop. The Creation Club is going to bring paid mods to Bethesda games, and that’s lame since mods on the PC are pretty much always free. I never got into Dishonored, nor The Evil Within. Quake: Champions doesn’t really thrill me much, either. However, Bethesda did announce the one game I’m most excited for thus far, at least between the Saturday and Sunday reveals: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. It’s going to be amazing.

 And that’s pretty much it. After all is said and done, the only games I really REALLY want are Assassin’s Creed, Life is Strange, and Wolfenstein II. I don’t expect many others to come down the pike during announcements on Monday, which saddens me.

 Hopefully this E3 treats the rest of you well, but at this point, I kind of don’t care. I’ve spent most of this year going back and forth between Battlefront, Counter-Strike: Source, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Zelda, Mario Kart, and Minecraft. I really don’t need much more than that.

I’ll be back after Monday’s conferences. 

New ‘Just For Fun’ Podcast Introduction

Hey guys!  I don’t like disrupting the main feed for stuff going on with this site, but I thought I’d take a moment to introduce a couple of side things, just so it’s done and out of the way.  And hey, you may actually enjoy this stuff so, check it out.

First, when Gabe and I record the Greatness Delayed Podcast, we hang around for a while just shooting the shit for a while… so we’re putting that to good use in the ‘We’re Sorry Podcast’, which you can see here (just below), or via the tab up at the top of the site:

We’re Sorry Podcast

And, of course, there’s also the Byte-Size Cinema addition which will have more content coming soon:

Byte-Size Cinema

Enjoy!!!

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.