No Man’s Sky…moar liek Nobody’s gaem amirite?!?!

If you’ve been even slightly connected to 2016’s abysmal pipeline of original video game launches, then you’ve heard all about the unprecedented sh!tstorm that is Sean Murray’s No Man’s Sky.

“No Man’s Sky” 1.07 update is expected to be released for the PS4 platforms.

No Man’s Sky is one of the greatest examples of a product’s scope getting out of control. Murray and his team promised gamers the entire universe, claiming that players could fly around galaxies in their spaceship, land at planets, gather resources, and encounter all kinds of interesting creatures, generated by a unique code. The galaxy is supposed to be MASSIVE, with the odds of players seeing the same planet incredibly low…until two people found the same planet and stood in the exact same place on stream. Murray’s entire hype-train for the game was fueled by his ambiguous answers, offering multiplayer, tremendous variety, and the ability to do “whatever you wanted.” Yet, what we got was a glitchy, unfinished mess, and awful reviews from people who made the mistake of falling for Murray’s promises.

Again, the issue comes back to product scope. Maintaining a clear and concise scope of the product/project your working ensures that

  1. Your teammates and you clearly understand what to prioritize
  2. Your teammates understand your artistic vision very clearly
  3.  Most importantly, allows your teammates to understand what SHOULDN’T be focused on

Murray and his Hello Games team were extremely small for a game of such hype and proportions, so their promise to offer everything at the same time is a dream that even the largest developer teams can’t keep. He made the mistake of making the scope for No Man’s Sky literally endless, and because of that, offered very little substance for the players to consume.

No Man’s Sky, Sean Murray, and Hello Games have been trapped in a tight spot as of late. Customers demanded refunds for their game, and if you did so on the PS4, you would have gotten blocked from customer support, as many users on forum NeoGaf reported. The UK was investigating the game for reports of “false advertising” highlighting the hazards of having too broad of a product scope. The video game’s reddit was closed for a time due to the toxicity of the community and the negative discourse happening around the game (but it has since reopened).  A disgruntled employee/internet hacker even tweeted “No Man’s Sky was a mistake” a couple of weeks ago using the OFFICIAL No Man’s Sky account. Sean Murray’s own hubris laid the final nail in the coffin, he was on the road interviewing about this game, making hypocritical promise after promise when he should have been working on the game. This video does the best job of putting the interviews and the content released on launch together, it’s one of the only 16-minute videos I watched with rapt attention on YouTube.

-Tom

Let’s play —-> Retsupurae? Is this ok?

Hello friends,

Sincerest apologies for posting this blog so late. The end of last week was extraordinarily hectic and I could barely keep track of what needed to be done.

Today we’re going to have a brief discussion about Let’s Plays and their implications on the gaming community as a whole.

For the uninitiated, a Let’s Play is a video recording of a gamer playing through a game, often while providing some idiosyncratic form of commentary or dialogue for the viewer. The most famous Let’s Play star of YouTube is undoubtedly PewDiePie,Image result

a Swedish YouTuber who has an almost cultish following at this point. For him, he makes multiple millions of dollars a year in sheer views alone, and no better figure personifies the incredible gameplay commentary culture that pervades gamer sentiment today. But before he even became well-known, countless other gamers were posting all kinds of different Let’s Plays that massively varied in quality. Another YouTube channel, Restupurae, sought out the worst of the bunch, and uploaded their own critical commentary of the player’s commentary, providing plenty of laughs at the Let’s Play gamer’s expense.

As of today, Retsupurae has over 120,000 subscriber, and you can see that the demand for gameplay commentary extends even to commentary of the commentators! But, it is worth mentioning that a decent amount of the YouTubers targeted by RestuPurae actually approve of the publicity and jokes made. Ironically, their most popular video is a piece that brings together other video game streamers who react negatively to PewDiePie’s style of commentary. Here is another video that is far more representative of what they originally created to get their own start. My question to you all is: do you believe the critical commentary and entertainment provided by a pair of YouTubers like Retsupurae is appropriate? Do you think that this qualifies as pure cyber-bullying even though the other YouTubers are purposefully uploading their own Let’s Play content for public consumption?

Make (AAA) Video Games Great Again

Being a business-minded person (ironically majoring in English), it hurts to me to see the state of AAA titles, or titles that have major (designer) studios and massive budgets behind them. I’m not going to try to make this a nostalgic, grass is greener type of post, but there has been an undeniable decay in quality titles. I attribute this to a variety of factors, the foremost being the push of financial interests overwhelming any sense of artistry for designers and storytellers. Many famous studios since the seventh generation of consoles (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii) have become “sell-outs” pumping out sequel, after sequel each year, releasing incomplete, glitchy games and selling them for $60 a pop. Why, you might ask, do they have the audacity to release half-baked titles? Because the seventh generation of consoles introduced the ability to PATCH games. Patching means they essentially offer online updates that you download straight to your console. In its best use, it fixes gamebreaking bugs that play testers missed, at worst it allows developers to meet their deadlines on products and just update it later.

From a studio standpoint, tension has grown between “hey, we’ve got this $100 million dollar game brand that’s super valuable, lets leverage that and sell it again, slightly different, for the full price!” and “hey, lets create something new and original, and see where it goes!” The operative term for this phenomena is risk.

Risk has always been an important facet of success in game development, people conceptualize all kinds of unique, wacky ideas, and generally if their team was behind them, they would get to work. Now, most big conglomerate video game companies have acquired these studios and have essentially told them to take far less risk, and to design titles that encourage the customers to spend even more cash on downloadable content. My favorite example of taking a unique idea and injecting old fashioned corporate greed is Evolve. Evolve took a unique concept, one player plays as a massive powerful monster trying to evolve (lol) and destroy the planet or kill the hunters. 4 other players pick hunters, categorized by roles, in order to combat the titanic beasts. Sounds interesting right? Check out this cool screenshot:Image result for evolve

It’s a AAA title that had a lot of unique promise to it. But then, on day 1 (yes, ONE, UNO, EINS) of its release, it launched with approximately $136 in buyable, downloadable content for players in the form of new characters and monsters…

Developers all started out in the same place, getting into game development either out of the interest in the challenge, or true love of creating stories and entertaining the masses. As soon as the sixth generation of consoles, that is, the PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube era, each platform had incredible AAA products come out, these games were complete because they had to be, you couldn’t issue software updates to any game-breaking glitches. Releases had multi-year gaps between them, meaningful space to respect their current offerings, and to properly develop their newest titles. Now, we have this:COD.jpg

COD Youtube.png

You really gotta ask yourself: what’s going on?

-Tom

DOTA and the MOBA: A Premier on the Most Valuable (and toxic) Community in Gaming Today

Last week, Dr. Clayton concluded a class by showing us what competitive gaming has become today: a segment largely dominated by MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) and an FPS known as CounterStrike: Go. For this blog we’re going to focus on MOBAs due to the interesting (TOXIC) culture that games of this nature create.

MOBAs are 5-on-5 team versus team games that rely on players taking on specific roles (mainly carry, support, caster, jungler, and off-lane). Teams must get gold to buy items, level up to get abilities, and push through the enemy team’s defense towers to their throne in order to win, these games take anywhere from 20-70 minutes to complete. The roles are denoted by the character you choose to play, these games commonly have over 50 characters with their own unique abilities, playstyles, and item builds. Let me breakdown the roles:

Carry: These characters often start the game as the weakest (squishiest) members of the team, who constantly need to be “babysat” (protected) by their team, mainly by the support. Over time, if allowed to get gold, and acquire items, they quickly become the most powerful characters in the game, “carrying” their team to victory. They almost always go to the safe-lane (the lane is longer for their team and shorter for the enemy, therefore “safer”).

Support: Protector of the carry, and whole team, their job is to make sure their team doesn’t lose the first 30ish minutes of the game. Generally they mainly buy support items that can either heal their teammates or weaken their enemies. They are also the “warders” of the team, meaning they buy what the uninitiated would consider “security cameras” to show the team enemy positions on the map. Can either roam around the map helping where needed or stick exclusively to the carry

Caster: Generally the one who will carry the game if the carry is underfarmed (has little items) or if they outplay the enemy caster significantly. They go middle lane, which is the shortest lane in the entire game, but equal for both sides.

Jungler: Farms in the jungle, will flank enemies who go to deeply into friendly territory and score a “gank” (team ambush). They jungle to give the off-laner an experience advantage.

Off-laner: Mostly a flex slot that can double as another carry type of role, or as an additional support to the team. They go into the off-lane which is always the enemy team’s safe lane.

Overwhelmed yet? You should be. Often players specialize in a role, and even then, have a specific pool of characters that they favor playing. The diversity of roles and characters give MOBAs their notorious infinite learning curve, it’s a game that you are constantly learning in, which can be appealing, but also extremely unforgiving. I won’t even try to dive into the mechanics that one needs to learn to even play the game at a basic level or you’ll be reading all night.

Because of the unbelievable complexity of the game, experiences  with the random teammates (the majority of players play alone) you match with vary from ok to mindnumbingly awful. Players can and will get matched with players who either don’t want to collaborate, aren’t at the same skill level, or just want to troll their entire team. Having team sizes of 5 players leaves a lot of room for players like this to ruin games, turning 30 minutes matches into 60 minute marathons that you may still lose. The games are so skill-based that having one player who is either unwilling or unable to play well will often lose the whole team the game. As a result of this common occurrence,  communities in MOBA games like League of Legends, Dota 2, and Smite are known for having the most “toxic” players in all of video gaming. Here is an example of someone screenshotting their first game in Dota 2:

 

Warning: Profanity and toxicity

Image result for sample toxic chat from dota 2

The interesting dissonance with the toxicity of the community is the incredibly addicting nature of the MOBAs themselves. People eat these games up, millions watch streamers play these games for hundreds of hours a month, and the competitive scene has teams from around the globe compete for millions of dollars. You read that correctly. Don’t believe me? Here. It’s a sensation that the business community is quickly realizing is the next UFC, a niche entertainment segment that can and will grow to be a billion dollar market. Don’t believe that hundreds of thousands watch these games? Go to twitch.tv and look at most viewed games, the top 5 will contain League of Legends and Dota 2 100% of the time. Does it seem logical that these games are as profitable and addicting as they are? No. Does it seem logical that Donald Trump could potentially become the President of the United States–Until next time friends.

 

-Tom

 

R.I.P. Gamestop: The Death of Brick and Mortar Retail and Physical Videogames

Ah, Gamestop, the place where scores of people used to camp out to wait in line for the newest Halo installment, and where I made my family spend small fortunes on PS2 and PC video games.

The advent of Amazon.com has almost single-handedly obliterated brick and mortar stores, even the 800-lb gorilla (RIP Harambe) of the whole sector, Wal-Mart, is wildly trying to now compete and maintain their market share through acquiring online businesses and assimilating it into their own system. Shopping mall profits are rapidly drying up, and most clothing companies that were the trend 10 years ago are now essentially worthless.

But, in regards to physical video game stores like Gamestop, there are simply so many more factors slowly strangling the retailer into oblivion. Online ecosystems like Amazon and Valve’s Steam provide digital avenues for gamers to purchase new titles, view sales, and interact with friends all from the comfort of their own room. In stark contrast to Gamestop, Steam offers all kinds of seasonal sales that encourage customers to purchase a ton of content, realizing that gamers will easily justify buying bundles of titles at discounted rates. This kind of pricing model is completely absent at Gamestop, where their inventory slowly decays in price relative to their release date, but lack any sort of other promotional opportunities. Gone are the times when gamers would meet up at stores, hang around with regulars, now these stores are in-and-out exchanges, if they get any serious traffic at all.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, most PC games had to be installed over 3-6 discs to get all of the content onboard, these mammoth installations required disk drives, something that most modern laptops nowadays lack. While Gamestop has their famous trade-in opportunities, which for those who don’t know, was actually brilliant from a business strategy perspective. Essentially, Gamestop allows people to “turn-in” games they’ve finished or don’t want anymore for some amount of store credit usually at about 1-10% of the game’s retail value, they would then sell a used game they bought back at $15 at $40, making serious returns. But, this strategy only works for as long as gamers decide to buy physical discs, this upcoming generation of gamers have grown up buying apps off the app-store, and therefore are very comfortable “missing out” on buying physical copies of games.

In the beginning, video game stores became the new arcades for hardcore gamers, then Steam allowed them to stay home. Then, Call of Duty fans, and the proliferation of mainstream console gamers kept the lights on, but now, with massive digital ecosystems, and 24/7 convenience, who can truly justify driving out to a store and spending $60 on a fragile disc?

The market knows this adjusted their expectations accordingly, and last quarter Gamestop still missed expected sales revenue by over $90M.

Gamestop is dead, long live Gamestop!

 

-Tom