Greatness Delayed Podcast 032 – It’s Going DOWN Son (Neogaf)

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Mike, Gus, and Gabe discuss the sexual assault allegations against Neogaf’s owner Evilore, why some people continue to buy controversial sellers due to micros and lootboxes, and the ‘all digital’ future.

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Sexual Assault Allegation Against Neogaf Top Brass

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This story began with a sexual assault allegation being made against top Neogaf brass. The claim was ambiguous at first, but the finger has since been pointed squarely at Evilore, the site’s owner.

Tyler ‘Evilore’ Malka has been the center of controversy many times, and of those controversies, some were sexual in nature.

Outside of the claims made against him, other members of Neogaf’s staff have been in trouble as recent as July 2017, as one of the moderators made the news for being in possession of child pornography. The owner and his staff had a number of ways in which they could have handled this, but instead opted to play dumb. They acted like they didn’t know the offender in person, even though Mr. Malka himself donated $1,000 to the guy at one point. Anyone who dared to discuss this issue on the forums were immediately banned.

In regards to Malka himself, he had once bragged about grabbing a girl’s rear end. When pressed about this, Malka’s response had pretty much been, “You have to consider the context of the situation, it was a big party,” etc.

Evilore had an AMA hosted by Kotaku’s Jason Schreier in 2015, and it seems a number of questions asked about the alleged assault were left in ‘pending approval’ status. And yet, despite these allegations against him, he did respond to a question about his thoughts on the Gamergate controversy:

“Basement-dwelling virgin subculture needed some way to empower itself, and I guess that way was sending terrorist threats to women for talking about video games. It would be good for a laugh if not for the lives it’s ruined.”

According to Jason Schreier, it was Evilore, and not Kotaku, who was in control of which questions/comments were approved or not:


But why hasn’t Kotaku looked into these allegations over the years? Why only now are they getting around to it?

Anyway, now Malka’s being implicated in another sexual assault by indie filmmaker Ima Leupp:

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Eventually, someone had confirmed that this post from Facebook (from just a few days ago) was, indeed, real:

“Guess I should chime in since I’m being named.

In a private group convo, one of my fellow participants brought up the fact that EL got #MeToo’d on FB. I saw someone on my feed telling a story an hour prior that could’ve fit but I didn’t read it too closely, was skeptical and posted a shot in our convo.. I was then directed toward the comments and lo and behold, there was the name. Was a holy shit moment for me, and something of a letdown too, having met both the accuser and the accused IRL. Posted that shot in our convo as well. Came to the realization that this should only really go public if the accuser wants it to because it’s her story to tell, and the rest of the participants in the convo reached the same consensus, or so it seemed. I deleted the shots from our group chat. Turned out one of the people in there saved the shots, and gave them to another person who then posted it on Voat, and did a godawful job at concealing the identity of the accuser and myself before doing so. She doesn’t deserve to get doxxed and harassed by the internet mob if she’s not ready for it, and it’s solely for that reason that I didn’t want this getting out there, which is why I regret sharing that shot in that group convo.

But yes, it’s real.”

People wanted to discuss this on the site, but the thread was closed up pretty fast… here is The Archived Neogaf Thread

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Evilore’s response to an unrelated issue earlier this month was… well, see for yourself.

“No evidence at all?  No corroborating testimony? No behavioral red flags? So far this is nothing like other recent industry scandals.”

Funny how that works out… being complacent with a recent scandal, and then being called out for this. In this case there are behavioral red flags. He’s wrong about that. Neogaf is known for its lack of transparency. There’s no conversation, no discourse… just… ‘banned’. He’s also been accused of sexual assault before, and it’s clear he hasn’t really understood what really constitutes as ‘consent’.

Since this story has broken, the staff have been leaving in droves. In fact, if you’re lucky enough to access the site’s staff listing, Evilore (Malka) is now the only admin left.

We’ve also received some exclusive information from a source(s) which seem pretty darn reputable, that Evilore tried to convince the mods that the incident he’s being blamed for wasn’t actually assault, but something revolving around a love triangle ‘cult’ thing. The staff didn’t buy the explanation, and that’s when they began to leave the site.

Update: Here’s confirmation of the love triangle/cult explanation as posted to mods:


Basically, Evilore is placing blame on Leupp, saying that because of the love triangle, she was inherently jealous.

Evilore finally made a statement late in the day on October 23rd:

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It reads:

“Hi.

An allegation of sexual misconduct has been made against me by an ex. It’s not true, the individual making the accusation isn’t credible, the story doesn’t reconcile logically with the facts, and there’s plenty of evidence and witnesses to corroborate that. It’ll be a process.

All allegations of this nature are serious, of course. I first got word of it on Wednesday when a screenshot of a Facebook post was handed to Voat. I immediately talked with my mod team about the contents of the screenshot and clarified that it was baseless and explained some of the details concerning my former associations with her, and tried to ensure any concerns from the team were addressed fully and transparently to everyone’s satisfaction. On Thursday I heard that she had deleted the accusation from Facebook, and wasn’t entirely sure how to proceed from there or how this would all play out in the public space at that point. Then, Friday morning, the screenshot made its way to NeoGAF and chaos ensued.

I was in the process of writing a statement that entire day to address formally address the allegation, but the community had erupted in a flash that morning. While the moderation team was trying to restore the peace, accusations and threats concerning the screenshot started shifting to them as well by association with me, and I was asked by my team to do something to fix things and get the heat off of all of them at least. I was beyond exhausted by that point, though, stretched too thin in the time since the post had first appeared and seeing unprecedented events unfold on NeoGAF. I was slow and weak. I failed to handle it quickly enough and let the team down. Before I could finish a statement and get it out there, understandably some mods hit their emotional limit, expressed concerns about the community coming after them, and decided to leave. A few people resigned, and many more quickly followed for similar reasons, citing stress and harassment. The site started breaking under load spikes leading up to the first resignations, too, and then flatlined altogether, so issuing a statement at that time on NeoGAF itself became impossible for the time being, and my attention shifted toward the moderation team’s future.

Since that whole mess, lasting from Friday morning through Saturday, before we formally went offline for maintenance and repair and restructure, we’ve just been trying to figure out the best course of action for NeoGAF going forward. And as stories began being published by various outlets, I issued some comments to the press, since everything coming out was proving to be sensationalized, opportunist, and unprofessional.

 

We’ve all become increasingly stressed and weary this year in ways even I’m not accustomed to by now, and discussions on heated news, political issues, and social issues on the off-topic side of the site have become areas no one has wanted to moderate in the open for fear of backlash or just general exposure to the inevitable toxicity. I’ve gone in there myself to take the heat, since it’s very much my responsibility to do so before anyone else’s, but there’s been little headway, mostly just more anger and resentment and a lot of bans. I don’t think this necessarily reflects on our community; more so the tone of the entire internet this year with regards to heated issues.

That’s all going to inform the way forward for NeoGAF as we refocus on what the main goals are supposed to be for the site. The mod team will talk about more specifics on what that will entail below.

 

One last thing. The NeoGAF mod team is here for this community; all of you. You have no obligations to respect me or believe anything I say about my personal life one way or another, but if you’re going to be here and participate on NeoGAF, respect the mod team by following the rules and behaving. The team is diminished at the moment and the folks who stuck around care very much about this community and its future. Be considerate of them. That’s non-negotiable.

Thanks.”

Why Do I Keep Buying Games I Should Be Taking A Stand Against?

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I find myself having the same conversation over and over again. It’s usually a lengthy debate that spins its tires on the same worn treads, but it basically goes like this:

Friend: You bought that game?

Me: Yeah.

Friend: Why would you give them your money after they (insert random shitty business tactic here)?

Me: Because I wanted to have fun playing a game I thought I’d enjoy?

Friend: That’s fine, but you should also forfeit any and all complaining about (insert random shitty business tactic here).

Me: I can’t play a game and still have a critical opinion about its negative aspects? Is it really that black and white?

Any time this comes up, I can’t help but give a defeatist sigh.

It’s worth talking about though, because I feel it represents a lot of the dominant conversations about ‘speaking with your wallet’ online. I mean, hell, I’ve got a website dedicated to sharing the seedy underbelly of AAA game development. That means I stand atop Mount Sinai, telling the masses that these companies – Bungie, Activision, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sony, etc. – are taking advantage of them, and that they should use the knowledge I impart to make educated decisions the next time they want to buy a game. And yet, I’ve bought games like Shadow of War, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Destiny, No Man’s Sky, and so many others.

Doesn’t that make me a hypocrite? Aren’t I sending the wrong message to these studios? The answers are obvious, so let’s ask a more open question: Why?
I love video games to pieces. I was born in 1982, so I was in on the ground floor. The Atari and its games were easily findable at yard sales, and I got to experience the glory of the Nintendo Entertainment System shortly after it had launched. As a young child, it was easy to build a massive library of games. A large chunk of my collection was acquired through yard sales. The handful of games I couldn’t afford otherwise, I was able to rent through Blockbuster Video. So, I grew up with the ability to play pretty much anything I wanted… which was pretty much everything.

This hobby turned into a passion. When I wasn’t playing games, I was talking about them, reading about them (oh hai, Gamepro!), or watching TV shows inspired by them. Over the years, I’ve developed a great wealth of knowledge, even about the stuff I didn’t own or didn’t particularly care for. Once the internet came to be, I finally had an outlet where I could discuss games and the industry they hail from with likeminded people.

Point 1 – The Community

Growing up, I was clearly spoiled. But more importantly, gaming, for me, has evolved into more than just sitting down and playing the games.

I like to be part of the conversation.

Game launches are a special time. It’s when months, if not years of analytical hype – for better or for worse – comes crashing down. In this respect, it doesn’t really matter how good or bad a game is, because people are going to break it all down with their praise, criticisms, and everything in between. It’s during this release window fervor that the gaming community feels most alive, and I genuinely love being a part of it.

Of course, upon entering these discussions, I realize the pools I’m wading through are far from pure. For example, certain fans have a tendency to praise most anything their beloved studio churns out, or people bash games they’ve never played because the hate train’s pulled into the station. It’s hard to stay away from these reactionary responses, but I also appreciate these opportunities to educate people.

Point 2 – Challenging Widely Accepted Perception

While I use reviews as a rough indicator, I never take them at face value. So, if a game receives universal praise or is shunned entirely, I’m compelled to check it out for myself. We all know that hype and hate trains exist, right? If I had listened to everyone back in 2014, I would have believed Shadow of Mordor was an amazing game… but it wasn’t (not bad, but average). Not for me. On the flip side of the coin, everyone berated The Order: 1886 for being short and too cinematic for its own good, and while it was flawed, it didn’t deserve the hatred that had been dredged from the bowels of the internet (at least, not in my opinion). So yes, I’m always curious to get hands-on with a divisive title so I can see what all the fuss is about.

Point 3 – But at the End of the Day…

This is where the more ‘human’ side of me begins to come out.

I can talk about bad business practices all day, but after all is said and done, I relent because I just want to have fun. With all the bickering over microtransactions and crappy DLC models, it’s easy to forget that video games are still pretty fun to play. Shadow of War may siren to other studios that, ‘hey, you can throw loot boxes into single player games now’, but I still want to play that experience. Same goes for Battlefront II, because I loved the last one and enjoyed the recent beta.

Hypocrite, I know.

But that’s also because I remember that video games were never perfect. People look back on the history of video games with rose colored glasses, saying, “There were never any microtransactions or DLC back in my day!” But if there were ways companies could suck money out of your wallet, they were doing it. Classic arcade games were cool, but you died every 15 seconds because they were designed to vacuum quarters out of your pocket. Gimmicky accessories were released in quick succession, and many of them didn’t work as advertised (as cool as the Power Glove looked, it was a real piece of crap). Nintendo introduced an add-on for the N64 in Japan (which was very short lived and a retro gaming collector’s dream to obtain). Corners were often cut during game development, and at times proved detrimental. And despite what many are lead to believe, games could often cost a bit more than $60.

Get my point?

Things have ALWAYS been shady. If I wanted to draw a strict line in the sand between their bullshit and my money, I wouldn’t have enjoyed a game in the last 30 years.

So for me, fun factor is what I value most. It’s only when crappy business decisions impact my fun in a big way that I begin to have serious problems.

How Does Supporting Games With Bad Business Models Make Me Feel?

Although ‘fun’ is my bottom line, that doesn’t mean I’m turning a blind eye to the practices that have infiltrated the gaming world. I’m well aware of the ‘slippery slope’ and how I’ve contributed to it. I’ll say that I rarely buy season passes, or even cosmetic items for that matter… but deep down inside, I know that’s not the best justification. When I buy even the base product, I’m telling studios I support what they’re doing, not to mention a potential customer for their DLC and microtransactions. Yes, that makes me feel dirty, and yes, I am, at times, disappointed in myself. I don’t like being part of the problem.

So why do I keep riding this merry go round? Well, because these are the choices I’m left with:

I can take a stand and never buy any of these exploitive games, but then I’d be sad I was missing out on the fun.

Or, I can continue to have fun playing the games that come out, but try and spread awareness about the things I see happening in the industry.

Obviously, I’ve chosen the latter.

I don’t believe that boycotting games or even particular studios is the answer. Because even though I haven’t bought the game, plenty of other people will. My sale won’t be missed. Casual gamers don’t care to delve into the stuff happening behind the scenes, so they’re going to buy whatever they like anyway.

And I can’t fault them for that. We pay to eat the sausage, not to see it being made, you know?
So, I’m going to keep eating that sausage, pretending that it’s primo meat and not just a bunch of leftover shit being ground into an intestinal shell. But if I notice something’s not right with it, I’m going to raise hell about it. I mean, what am I supposed to do, not eat sausage anymore? That’s effin’ lunacy.

The ESRB Are Right: Loot Boxes Aren’t Gambling

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The ESRB has finally chimed in on all this loot box nonsense in our games:

“ESRB does not consider loot boxes to be gambling,” “While there’s an element of chance in these mechanics, the player is always guaranteed to receive in-game content (even if the player unfortunately receives something they don’t want). We think of it as a similar principle to collectible card games: Sometimes you’ll open a pack and get a brand new holographic card you’ve had your eye on for a while. But other times you’ll end up with a pack of cards you already have.”

Why have they made this statement? Well, because loot boxes are coming in virtually all of this holiday’s most anticipated games: Shadow of War, Battlefront 2, and even Assassin’s Creed: Origins (the latter of which won’t allow you to obtain these with real world money). As a result, online personalities like John ‘Totalbiscuit’ Bain have asked the ESRB to classify loot boxes as gambling. Fortunately, they’re not going to do so.

Before I continue, let me be clear: I don’t like loot boxes in my video games. I like the progression systems we’ve had just fine (levels, skill trees, etc.), and loot boxes are really only there to make the publisher a couple extra bucks. Lots of people wave loot boxes off by saying, “Well, who cares. The stuff they provide is cosmetic.” They aren’t, though. Not anymore. But for the sake of argument, let’s agree that all loot boxes are just a means of delivering cosmetic content. If a publisher is allowing you to purchase these things with real world money, that means the game you paid full price for has been artificially inflated. A game with padded runtime, all for the sake of having a loot box system in place, is a waste of your time. They WANT you to spend money in order to skip the grind. That’s why these systems exist in the first place. Now, also for the sake of argument, let’s look at games that have loot boxes, but don’t allow you to buy them with real world money. That’s still a game that treats grind as actual content… but what’s the point in that? Quality over quantity trumps these practices every time.

So yes, please, keep loot boxes out of my game. No, I’m not strong enough to stay away from games like Battlefront 2, whose loot boxes can be purchased AND offer clear advantages over other players in-game. At the end of the day, I want to play the games I know I’ll have fun playing. Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t say, “Hey, this game would be better if they…”

Now with that all in mind, I need to get something off my chest: I actually agree with the ESRB. Loot boxes should not be considered gambling.

No, really. They shouldn’t be considered gambling, and I wish people on the internet, especially people with large audiences behind them, would stop saying so. Let’s look at the definition of gambling (per Dictionary.com):

-The activity or practice of playing at a game of chance for money or other stakes.

-The act or practice of risking the loss of something important by taking a chance or acting recklessly

Gambling has a very specific definition. Yes, unpredictability and the triggering of a dopamine response (and even addiction) are major components of gambling, but to ‘gamble’, you’re putting up money, or something else you’d lose if things didn’t turn in your favor. Loot boxes, on the other hand, do not carry these stakes. As the ESRB have said, you’re always getting something in return, even if it’s not what you had wanted.

Dr Luke Clark, director at the Center for Gambling Research at the University of British Columbia, recently told PC Gamer: “The player is basically working for reward by making a series of responses, but the rewards are delivered unpredictably,” “We know that the dopamine system, which is targeted by drugs of abuse, is also very interested in unpredictable rewards. Dopamine cells are most active when there is maximum uncertainty, and the dopamine system responds more to an uncertain reward than the same reward delivered on a predictable basis.”

While loot boxes may engage similar activity in the brain, there’s still a distinction between loot boxes and gambling. They are not one and the same. If anything that triggered a dopamine response, especially triggered by uncertainty, were considered to be the same, then we’d have to start making other ridiculous statements, right? “Loot boxes are drugs!” But that’s silly, because we know they aren’t. And they also aren’t gambling.

OpenCritic has decided to note which games have loot boxes, as its CEO doesn’t care for this system at all: “You can call it gambling, you can call it gaming addiction, you can call it whatever you want. The problem is still the same.” He has a point. “The ESRB would say that violence is bad for society so violent video games get a higher rating. Gore is bad for society so gory video games get a higher rating. And nudity and cursing, those are bad so they get a higher rating. And yet something that really could have a serious impediment to the mental development of children, they’re saying ‘well it’s not technically gambling so we’re not going to make a stand here.” More good points, but ultimately, he lost me.

Loot boxes. Aren’t. Gambling.

I’ll certainly agree that they can lead to the same negative outcome, but the distinction is important because think of everything that would be screwed over if we allowed opinions on the internet to change the very definition of what gambling is…

If you declare loot boxes as gambling, then you have to consider the plastic egg machine that most of you have seen at your local supermarkets. You know the ones; you feed a quarter (or two, or three) into a machine, and it gives you a plastic egg with a tiny toy or trinket inside. You don’t know what’s inside, but that’s kind of what makes it exciting, right? Is THAT gambling? No, of course not. If there’s anything from the local arcades which could be considered gambling, it would be all those games of chance, especially the ‘money broom’, where a brush is always on the verge of pushing a bunch of coins over the edge. You say, “Gee, I bet my quarter will be the one to push ‘em all over!” So you pop your coin in, you get nothing, and you walk away with nothing. THAT’S gambling. You took a chance, you lost some money, and you have nothing to show for it. That happened to us all the time as kids, and were we traumatized? No. We walked away a little disappointed, and it helped build character.

But recreational outrages want you to believe that loot boxes are going to lead your kids to a life of drugs, mental illness, or worse. That’s taking things way, way too far.

What I do agree with is clearly labeling the games which contain the loot box mechanic. I mean, anything extra is usually labeled on the back of a game box. Need hard drive space? It’s listed. Need an internet connection? It’s listed. Require a PSVR headset or something? That’s listed. Mobile games especially will tell you if there are additional purchases involved, too. If loot boxes are involved, people should also know about that. Because yes, it’s a mechanic which people can get addicted to, and if their game is going to have it, they should be notified at the point of purchase in case they want to avoid it.

But let’s not hold our breath, because that won’t happen anytime soon.

When it comes to these practices, the industry is still in the wild west. Government hasn’t stepped in to make any rules or regulations yet… but it’s inevitable. Studios are earning a ton of money with microtransactions, DLC, and loot boxes, that it’s going to draw enough attention for regulation to become a consideration. It’s a shame it has to be that way, but AAA studios haven’t been able to help themselves… and gamers are the ones who suffer for it.

The sad thing, is that loot boxes don’t have to be inherently bad. The only reason why they are is because of corporate greed. If a game was designed with loot boxes in mind, didn’t charge real world money for them, and actually made the game an all-around rewarding experience without hours and hours of pointless grind, it could be fun… COULD be. But they aren’t, and here we are.

To those of you who avoid these games completely, I applaud you. Your resolve is strong. Again, some of us (like myself) still like to play the games we know we’ll have fun with, even if it means sending the wrong message. Life’s too short to not enjoy things… but I think we’re getting into something which can be a whole other article.

First Time Out: Resident Evil VII

I had absolutely zero interest in playing this game.  A first person Resident Evil?  Pfft.  Get out of here.  To me, it just seemed like Capcom, who don’t really seem to know how to perform these days, were just trying to cash in on the P.T. demo craze.

Well, as I usually do after a game’s launch, I watched someone play the game for about 45 minutes… and to my surprise, it looked quite good.  So, here it is!  My first couple of hours with Resident Evil VII.  Enjoy!

Generation Without Definition

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In preparation for the 2016 in review conversation we’ll be having on the podcast in about a week, I decided to write down a list of all the games I’ve played.  Not just the games from this past year, mind you, but ALL of them.  Didn’t matter if it’s a game from 2002 I was playing for the first time, or if it was an old favorite I was revisiting for the 18th time.  Old games are just as much a part of our ‘gaming makeup’ each year as the new stuff we play, so here’s what I came up with:

Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures

Assassin’s Creed: Rogue

Far Cry 4

Absolute Drift

Batman: Akrham Knight

The Witness

The Division

Doom

Uncharted 4

No Man’s Sky

Final Fantasy XV

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare

Battlefield 1

Dark Souls

Dying Light

Life Is Strange

The Witcher 3 (restarted)

Dark Souls 3

Forza Horizon 3

Gear of War 4

Dead Rising 4

Kirby: Planet Robobot

PvZ: Garden Warfare 2

Mafia III

Street Fighter V

Inside

Grim Dawn (official release date)

Pokken Tournament

Overwatch

Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Pokemon Go

Super Mario Run

Skyrim Special Edition

Dragon Quest VII

Earth Defense Force 4.1

Super Mario 3D Land

Contra 4

Grand Theft Auto Online

Grand Theft Auto 4

Super Mario 64

Super Scribblenauts

Mega Man 2

Mega Man 3

I obviously didn’t play all of these games from start to finish.  Some I may have only played for a couple of hours.  But even so, that’s one hell of a list, isn’t it?  Great titles, alright ones, and even a few stinkers, but overall, I’d say 2016 was rather enjoyable.  Still, this list presents a bit of a problem, namely the inadequacies of the gaming industry as a whole.  Forty-three games, and you know what I noticed about them?  Thirty-two are either sequels or stem iteratively from existing IP’s.  Mmhmm.  Thirty.  Two.  That’s insane.  Even if we take older games off my list, we’re still talking close to 20.

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with sequels or reboots.  Doom makes a compelling argument for being my favorite game of the year.  Hell, Dark Souls III is up there, too.  Oh, and surprisingly, Gears of War 4 has proven to be quite memorable, as well.  I also don’t care how many times Nintendo throws Mario at me, because he always amounts to a good time.  Point is, I don’t personally mind when studios lean on formulas that’s proven to work them.  No, it’s when they cross that line… when they insist on using that mindset as a crutch, that’s when I get worried.

And I’m worried now.

Gamers routinely say this is the best generation of gaming to date.  Sure, they’ve conveniently overlooked the unnecessary iterative consoles and the sea of unfinished games that’s been released… but vidyagames, right?!

But seriously, I can’t deny there’s been some titles genuinely worth swooning over, but that’s not unique to the here and now.  There have always been great video games, and there always will be.

But from a first party perspective, Sony and Microsoft have been playing things far too safe.  They’ve relied once again on the likes of Killzone, Infamous, Gears of War, God of War, Forza, Halo, Ratchet and Clank, Little Big Planet, Uncharted, The Last of Us, and a handful of others.  These are franchises that also defined the LAST generation of gaming, and while I understand the desire for studios to milk a cow’s supple teats until they’re coughing up powder, they’re leaving the PS4 and Xbox One without identities of their own.

The Xbox 360 was defined by Forza, Fable, and Gears of War.  But what does the Xbox One have?  Sunset Overdrive was largely overlooked, and Quantum Break was disappointing.

The Playstation 3 had Infamous, Uncharted and The Last of Us.  But PS4?  Well, it has Bloodborne… but that’s about it.  Nobody cared about Knack, and while Until Dawn is great, it isn’t a title that’s going to sell systems.  Driveclub has its fans, but still hasn’t managed to evade the stink left behind by its troubled launch.  And it’s not even worth mentioning The Order: 1886 (I didn’t think it was terrible, but it’s certainly frowned upon by most of the gaming community).

So, if video games aren’t giving this generation a definitive voice, what is?

Well, the struggle over resolution and frame-rate, for one.  But outside of that, this generation will likely be remembered for the releases of the PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio.  I mean, their very existence could very well change the way consoles are developed and sold from here on out.  I don’t have a crystal ball or anything, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we never saw a Playstation 5.  If each console is only somewhat better than the version before it, a new naming convention could take over:  Playstation Nitro, Playstation Beyond, Playstation Zen, etc.  All only somewhat better than the previous iteration, and yet still years behind what PC hardware brings to the table.

And if I were Sony and Microsoft, I’d start thinking about how big a problem that might be.

This isn’t rocket science.  GAMES should define how we feel about any given generation.  Sure, we’ll also develop an attachment to hardware designs, but games are what matter most.  Unfortunately, the gaming industry has lost sight of that, and that could very well bite console developers in the end.  If Microsoft and Sony want to continue down the path of pushing consoles more than first party exclusives, they’ll eventually be perceived as third-party machines.  If that happens, it leaves the door WIDE open for Steam machines to make another push, and with Steam having almost any third party title you can dream of, and for less money, that platform could finally become a contender in the living room.

And speaking of third-party, it’s pretty clear the AAA heavies have gotten lazy, too.  They’re just too afraid to let go of moneymaking franchises.  People often complain about being bored of the same old crap, but how do these companies respond?

“We’ll make our games look better.  Cool?”

But people aren’t complaining about graphics anymore.  That narrative just isn’t driving the industry as much as it used to… at least from the perspective of consumers.  Gamers want better writing, character depth, enemy AI, etc.  But nooooo… all anyone has done is say, “Better volumetric fog, god rays, and particle effects!  That’ll revolutionize everything!”

Ugh.

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Shadow of Mordor had the right idea with the Nemesis System.  It was basic, yes, but I was convinced it was the first baby-step in this industry’s journey to develop better AI… and yet nobody has tried to emulate, let alone best that system since.  Nope, every other game still features enemies that either stand against a single guard post, or walk in the same L-shaped pattern over and over.

So let me ask:  Is this truly the best that AAA developers could pull off in 2016?  Is this REALLY the best generation of gaming ever?  I don’t think so, and furthermore, I think the industry CAN do better.  Not only CAN it do better, but there’s nothing wrong with EXPECTING better, either.  But with so many people literally buying products before they’re finalized, what incentive does this industry have to change its unfriendly business tactics?

Well, consumers have to realize that more powerful hardware isn’t going to solve a damn thing.  If you want better quality products, you have to stop pre-ordering games.  Stop telling studios you’re willing to buy their crap sight unseen.  Also, if you’re not having much fun playing the games being released on the PS4 or Xbox One, playing them on a PS4 Pro or Xbox One S (or even the Xbox Scorpio) isn’t going to change that.  Your gameplay will be enhanced, but enhancement of non-enjoyment is still just that… non-enjoyment.

If you want newer, better IP’s, and advancement in storytelling and AI, then all you need to do is keep those conversations in the public eye.  Keep those narratives strong so AAA publishers and developers can see that they’re no longer going to get away with repackaging the same two or three gameplay formats time and time again.  Make damn sure they know you want more than just:  FPS – The Game / Blasting From Behind Cover – The Game / Stealthily Wipe-Out Poor Enemy AI – The Game / Detective Mode – The Game.

Not that AAA games should be villainized, though.  Again, I still find them to be quite enjoyable.  I’m just disappointed that the industry refuses to broaden its horizons in the ways that are most needed.

The good news?  As long as you’re willing to wander outside the AAA scene, there’s plenty of great games being released by smaller and/or independent studios.  Ori and the Blind Forest, The Witness, Inside, Limbo, Absolute Drift, Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight, Axiom Verge, Grow Home, Child of Light, Never Alone, Outlast, Trine, Braid, Undertale, Owlboy, Soma… and these are only some of the most notable choices.  And hey, if none of these pique your curiosity, there’s still decades worth of games for you to go back and enjoy.

It’s easy to forget that gaming isn’t a ‘box’, but an art form that we can enjoy… well, pretty much whenever.  Games take a bit longer to digest than music albums, movies, and even a number of books, and as a result, people always feel like they have to play the newest stuff and never look back on the old… and that’s just simply not true.  If you find yourself in a rut, just look at your back catalog or start working on games that you may have missed.  Sure, there are some titles that may not have aged as gracefully as others, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that most hold their own quite well.

 

 

More Exclusive Batman Details and Suicide Squad Put On Ice

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We have recently dropped additional details about the upcoming Batman game – currently under development by WB Montreal – on our podcast, but for those that haven’t listened in, I figured it’d be a good time to put those details into writing.  But first, here’s links to the previous information that was brought to you exclusively by Byte-Size Impressions:

New Batman Game May Be On The Horizon – May, 2016

New Batman Game Still In Development, New Villain Expected – September, 2016

Who IS Batman In The Next Open World Game? – September, 2016

First Podcast Discussion

Second Podcast Discussion

In our last couple of podcasts, Gabriel Galliani – journalist with the Official Playstation Magazine in Italy – decided to drop some new bits of information and even field questions from a comic book savvy audience (a big thank to Slcmof of Youtube and Twitter for that).  Here’s what Gabe had to say:

He’s seen a vertical slice of the game and also has evidence to support that claim.  The visual aesthetic is bleaker than that of previous Batman games.  The city gives off a ‘something happened here’ vibe, and there’s even a bit of fog to help push the darker atmosphere that much further.  There’s still neon lighting in Gotham, but doesn’t seem as prevalent as it did in Arkham Knight (of course, things can always change during the course of development).  Featured landmarks we can expect to see are the Monarch Theater, Goth Corp., and even a rundown version of Wayne Enterprises.

To add to the roster of characters that have already been leaked, Gabe was also able to add:

-Katana

-Talon

-The Dee Dee Twins

-Mr. Freeze

He also confirmed a rumor – which originally circulated on Neogaf – about the Black Mask being female this time around.  The villain’s identity should make sense and not seem ‘out of left field’, her costume will be extremely sexy yet maintain a dose of class, and seems to enjoy treating her victims with both syringe and hammer.

Jason Schreier of Kotaku has spilled a few beans about the game recently as well, up-to-and including an appearance by the Penguin.  What’s interesting about this is that Gabe, who has an extensive list of the characters that should appear in-game, knows nothing about that character appearing in this game.  That doesn’t mean The Penguin won’t be in it, just that this information hasn’t also come his way.

Another interesting bit of news from Mr. Schreier is that the long rumored Suicide Squad game is being canned, as WB Montreal have been shifting things internally for various reasons.  While this may have put a temporary hold on the Batman project while the dust settles, they’ll probably get back to it with an even bigger push until the game is ready to be revealed and eventually released.

For future updates on this game – as we’re able to reveal more once bits of information are verified by multiple sources within WB Montreal – make sure to keep an eye pressed against the site’s news feed, Twitter account, and an ear glued to the podcast, because you never know when or where the info will drop!