Are Video Games getting easier? Also Microtransactions Update!

Git Gud for £3.99

There has been a long-standing argument that video games are getting easier to appeal to younger players. You often hear older players complain that they didn’t have it as easy when they were growing up. And with the recent release of Crash Bandicoot: The N’sane Trilogy, social media has been talking about the level of difficulty that game and games even before it. So the question remains, are video games getting easier?

What’s changed?

Mechanically, games function a lot better for the most part. I recently re played Banjo Kazooie and the swimming mechanic made me nearly launch my controller at the wall. Games run a lot smoother which can create the illusion that a game is easier to play. Look at any Ubisoft open world game. Despite what you make of them as games, they do run quite smooth mechanically (usually anyway, Assassin’s Creed Unity and floors with more holes than Swiss Cheese withstanding). Now I loved games like Crash Bandicoot and Banjo Kazooie, but the 3D technology was fairly new at the time, so there were going be some issues.

Are the players just getting better?

With the rise in online gaming and E-Sports over the past decade, its safe to say the skill level in video games has risen exponentially. With the help of YouTube tutorials, walkthroughs and game guides, every average player can learn to get better at a game. This compared to the PS2, SNES and NES era, where you could buy strategy guides and the average player was only the champion among your friend groups.

And Finally…

Are Games getting easier?

No, games are getting better mechanically along with a higher skill levelled player base. This creates the illusion of an easier game. In some cases, they are actually becoming harder (Demon/Dark Souls started this trend and it can royally go fuck it self). Explaining why some people find Crash Bandicoot so difficult is simple, your reactions are slower than when you first played it and the mechanics are ever so slightly outdated.

Now an update on Microtransactions and how EA has managed to make me look like a complete tool.

As all 5 of you know, I’ve been singing the praises of Star Wars Battlefront 2’s DLC system since its announcement. However in a interview with Gamespot  Design Director Niklas Fegraeus said:

When you want to progress and get stuff, you can either play the game and when you play you earn the in-game currency, and with that you can spend towards whatever you want. If you want to accelerate that, if you can’t play for a week, you can purchase that.’

Essentially, you can accelerate progress and get better stuff by paying for it. This is, bluntly put, fucking stupid. The system will no doubt be exploited by people, and kinda makes the game pay to win. This is not the way to do microtansactions and I hope EA changes their minds about this.

Edit: Turns out EA has been using this accelerator type thing in the Battlefield franchise for some time, so I guess long term it’s not an issue.

 

Are Microtransactions in AAA games really a bad thing?

I’ll be going into hiding after this one.

Microtransactions have become a mainstay in the AAA games industry as of late. Despite major criticism from customers online, they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. Why is that? Why do the get so much Criticism? What could publishers do to reduce criticism? What is the future for them? Are they really as bad as we think?

Quick Note: I see microtransactions in a free to play game as fair game as long as the items available can be obtained without having to buy them. Those games have got to make money too.

Why do Microtransactions get so much criticism?

There are a number of reasons why microtransactions get more flak than Trump in California these days. The most obvious reason being the fact that, after already paying $60 for a game, publishers expect us to fork out more money to unlock any of the cool items in game like skins, camo’s, in-game items, guns, voice over packs and even Flag packs (Really Activision, Really?). The other issue is the ‘game-breaking’ nature of some. Take Fifa as an example, you spend your money on what is essentially a wheel spin to get maybe a half decent player you can either use or sell on the in-game market for coins to buy another player you wanted. Now, you can ‘grind’ to get the coins to buy these players by playing games, but if you did that, the next game would be out by the time you got near the coin amount of the top players on the game (The introduction of FUT Champs went halfway to solving this problem). Despite all of this, isn’t it a little bit stupid that what players you get is essentially a random spin of a wheel? The points to open these packs are’t cheap either. 12,000 of them will set you back a cool £80 (£72 with EA/ Origin Access), and odds are you won’t make that back in terms of coin value or players ‘packed’.

Why are Microtransactions not going anywhere?

The short answer is money. Games like Battlefield and Call Of Duty make far too much money out of them. Activision made over $1 billion dollars last year alone in microtransactions in Call Of Duty, Overwatch and World Of Warcraft. From a business standpoint, you’d be stupid not to implement them in your games. Now, I am using Activision as the scapegoat here, purely because as a COD player for many years, it’s easier for me to explain the point I’m trying to make. However, EA, Ubisoft and soon to be Bethesda (it’s paid mods and I won’t hear otherwise Pete Hines) are all guilty for this too. And for the most part, in the publisher’s eyes anyway, these things aren’t affecting the game anyway as most are just cosmetic items (seriously if you put game changing items behind a random paywall with no other way to obtain them then you really are a pile of shit).

How can publishers make the system better?

There is a few things publishers can do to make microtransactions better for there audience as more of a goodwill gesture to customers. Publishers could take a similar approach to Valve’s Counter Strike: Global Offensive, by making in-game items worth real life money. However, if you wanted to avoid that legal minefield, make it an in game fake currency which you can exchange for other items in game that were perhaps more sought after. Another approach is making all other DLC free like Halo 5 and the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront 2 (as previously mentioned in the Call of Duty Conundrum). This method also would keep more players interested as you aren’t splitting them into groups of have and have not. In an ideal world, both systems would be used but if I had to pick one it would be making all other DLC items free.

What’s the future?

Simply put, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Microtransactions make far too much money for any business to sacrifice for the sake of a few complaints. At what level they are integrated depends. I can’t see it going full free to play crappy mobile game but I see perhaps more detailed micro-transactions in future releases. I hope players can still grind and unlock these items without having to buy them.

And Finally…

Are Microtransactions all that bad?

In their current format, yes. But, with a few tweaks to the system and some general goodwill toward the consumer from the publishers, I think microtransactions can and will (s/o to Roman Reigns) be accepted by the majority of players worldwide.

 

 

 

Macca’s Game Blog

Hello!!

Hello people of the internet, my name is Macca. And like most of my generation, I’ve been playing video games since I was a child. From Zelda and Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64 to the first Modern Warfare (I did scream in a high-pitched voice at you and I apologise) all they way to modern-day, where choice for games and what system to play them on is greater than it ever has been.

About me:

Well, my name is Macca (Obviously) and I am 21 years old. I was born in the East Midlands. My earliest gaming memories are playing on my brother’s Sega Megadrive. The first game I actually remember playing, was Banjo Kazooie on the Nintendo 64. My favourite game of all time is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

What types of games do you play?

I generally go for action adventure games and RPG’s. I’m also a massive Fifa and FPS shooter fan. Although, I will play other genres like Horror and MMO’s.

What are your goals with the blog?

My goals are simple, I want to create a forum of discussion about games and how we can keep the ‘suits’ happy without ruining the integrity of the art form that is video games. The bottom line is, games are a business first, and finding a middle ground that suits both sides should be the ultimate goal for all people involved in-game development and distribution. So, will I criticise publishers and developers for completely anti-consumer business practices? yes. But, will I criticise them for things that aren’t necessarily great for the consumer, but make business sense and aren’t damaging to consumers overall?No. The point is to find a compromise that creates a win for both the consumer and the publisher/developer.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy what you read and feel free to follow me on Twitter:

@maccasgameblog

 

Top 5 games releasing after June 26th I’m looking forward to playing

I promise this was planned and not a last minute decision

Ah yes, anyone who’s anyone in video games blogging/media has done at least one of these (unless they actually have ideas of course). 2017 looks like a good year for video games, so here are 5 games I’m looking forward to this year (or after June 26th at least).

Honourable Mentions:

South Park: The Fractured But Whole, Need For Speed: Payback, The Evil Within 2, Sea of Thieves and Far Cry 5.

5: Call of Duty: World War 2

Now, before some of you roll your eyes so far into the back of your own head you actually see your own brain cells, let me explain. While Call of Duty has been less than good as of late, after seeing gameplay and hearing the general response on social media, I’m excited about Call of Duty again for the first time in a while.

4: Assassin’s Creed: Origins

The two-year break that the series took seems to have paid off, as the new combat system, RPG elements and intrigue around the general location and setting has got me back on the hype train for Assassin’s Creed (I was never really off the hype train but at least this game actually looks good and not Assassin’s Creed 2.5).

3: Middle Earth: Shadow of War

Monolith’s second go around in the Lord of The Rings universe looks to build on the what made the first game a smash hit with fans and critics alike. With the developments to the nemesis system and the new story, I very much look forward to taking on Sauron’s army once again.

2: Super Mario: Odyssey

Psychotic cap aside, this game looks brilliant. The movement mechanics, the varying worlds an even the story make this new game very interesting. Mario has been a staple of Nintendo’s consoles longer than I have been alive and this new addition to the franchise looks excellent.

1: Wolfenstein: The New Colossus

This game deserves all the hype it gets, with the first one being the diamond in the pile of shit that was games in 2014. I expect it to be more of the same, excellent story and mechanics with characters people can be invested in. Also, who doesn’t love shooting Nazi’s in the face? (In video games of course, don’t actually shoot someone in their face, despite their backwards political nonsense).

All in all, it looks like whatever your tastes are when it comes to video games, it seems to be another good year. And yes, I’m aware 3 of my top 5 all release on the same day.

The Call of Duty Conundrum

COD’s not dead

Ah, Call of Duty, that totally non-divisive franchise that everyone loves and agrees on how it should progress as the games go on. Activision’s smash hit series, which is one of the biggest selling franchises of all time has had troubled times as of late. Or, at least troubled times for one of the biggest game series of all time. With Activision having to ship Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered with latest game Infinite Warfare to even persuade players to buy the game, its clear that there are problems that need to be addressed sooner rather than later. Here are some of the problems I think the series has and how I think they can be fixed.

The first problem with Call of Duty has been temporarily solved at least, and that’s the setting. While not seeming that big of a deal to an outsider looking in, the recent time period settings for the past few games have been a serious issue for the community. Most fans seem to think that the future setting has been a step away from what made the game great in the first place and I’m inclined to agree (although my issues go a little deeper).

Solution: Well, with the next one being set in WW2, this isn’t as big a problem as it was. However, modern or previous combat settings for the foreseeable future please.

Classic maps will forever be remembered by long time fans. Whether it is Crash, Terminal, Nuketown, Firing Range or even Dome, there’s a reason these maps get remastered every few years. And if I’m honest, none of the maps on the last few games have been anywhere near as memorable as these ones. Activision is pushing that the next game goes back to the roots of what made COD great, so having maps that are both classic in feel and function is vital for the series going forward.

Solution: Look at what made those maps fundamentally great and place that in your chosen setting. Also, the COD community has to simmer its expectations, every COD has awful maps (Stonehaven we’re looking at you). You could just cheat and re-skin the classic maps, the community would complain but at least the maps would be good.

Gunplay is vital to the success any Call of Duty. If the guns don’t feel satisfying to use and have some impact, then payers tend to be less interested in the game. Then there’s the issue of weapon balance, and it usually goes one of two ways. They either patch or hotfix too often, or not at all. Every COD game has a weapon that’s overused to death, and when that’s patched another one comes along.

Solution: Developers need to find a middle ground to keep the game interesting, and preferably make other guns better instead of making the better guns worse, as the game doesn’t lose any of its fun factor.

Micro-transactions are a funny one, because they’re awful, anti-consumerist nonsense that we as a community seem to be letting Activision get away with. But, on the other hand, they make Activision incredible amounts of money, so they’d be stupid not to continually put them in each release. After all, games might be a medium of entertainment for us, but it’s also a business for Activision.

Solution: EA are approaching DLC in AAA shooter, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, in the way I feel is going to be the best compromise for both players and publishers. While the game will contain micro-transactions, all extra Maps, guns, vehicles etc. will be free. Also, the paid map pack method splits and fractures the player base. So, I think as a goodwill gesture to customers more than anything, Activision should copy EA’s method. In an ideal world, both games wouldn’t have micro-transactions but they are unfortunately here to stay.

YouTube is a wonderful thing. It has united communities in a way nobody thought to be possible. The COD community is no exception, even having its own Sub-communities. However, the feeling of finding that new gun and telling your mates about was part of the fun back in the day. Admittedly, this is an entirely personal gripe, but a gripe nonetheless. So, guys, cool it with the best class setups in the game videos please? (I am aware I can avoid these videos and this problem is solved, but I’m privileged and have an obligation to complain about stuff that is entirely avoidable).

Solution: Stop watching these videos.

Play styles are a big thing in COD, and while I can’t tell you how to play. If you get your kicks out of finding a dark corner and not moving, power to you. But, I will call you obscene names you probably aren’t in the heat of the moment and discuss imaginary encounters with your mother.

Solution: Camping will always be in COD, it always has, it’s about making the game in the favour of more mobile players. Campers already have an advantage and at its core, Call of Duty is an arcade shooter, so start moving you fools!

Considering everything, Call of Duty isn’t in a terrible state, but things could be a lot better and if changes aren’t made soon, the series could follow Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater to the Activision graveyard.

 

 

 

Thoughts On Sony’s 2017 E3 Press Conference

Year of Dreams 2.5

Sony has been dominating both the console market and E3 press events since the launch of the PS4 back in 2013. This year, with the bar set a decent, but beatable height, can Sony dominate yet again?

In what seemingly has become tradition at these press events, Sony let the games ‘sell themselves’ by having very little developer or publisher discussion on stage and just focusing on gameplay or trailers. Beginning with Naughty Dog’s Uncharted The Lost Legacy, a standalone adventure game which focuses on series characters Nadine and Chloe. A trailer showed more detail of the widely anticipated story at this point. The game will release on August 22nd on PS4 exclusively.

My Thoughts: I missed the original Uncharted Series, so this doesn’t really peak my interest, but fans of the beloved franchise will love it and based on the reputation of Naughty Dog, I expect it to be good.

While on the subject of DLC, Sony gave us a first look at smash hit, Horizon: Zero Dawn’s DLC, The Frozen Wilds. Aloy returns in search of more answers and it appears to focus on a mountain that appears to be crumbling. The DLC will launch later this year at some point.

My Thoughts: More Horizon is good.

We got another extended look at Days Gone, this time showing off the stealth elements within the game and a tiny peak into the narrative. No release date was confirmed but it is suspected to be out sometime this year.

My Thoughts: Zombie games generally don’t interest me, but this one has me intrigued. I don’t want to see anymore gameplay however, after two E3s with extended looks, Sony have shown enough. With Regards to the release date, my best guess would be late November or early December 2017.

We then got a couple of unexpected surprises in the form of Monster Hunter and a Shadow of the Colossus HD remake. Both games are set to launch in 2018 at some point. Also, Marvel vs. Capcom infinite got a brand new trailer and release date of September 19th, with a playable demo launching immediately.

My Thoughts: Monster Hunter looked cool and Shadow of the Colossus is perhaps a bigger deal than people are making out. And Marvel vs. Capcom looks interesting, if you are into fighting games.

Call Of Duty made its annual appearance this year (I’ll write about Call Of Duty as a series in another post) and revealed the multiplayer for this years iteration, which is going back in time to World War Two, a smart move if nothing else for Activision to make.

My Thoughts: Looks good, but it looks good every year so I’m not getting my hopes up (You won’t get me this time Activision). It’s a nice move for fans to go back after the future setting went down like raw chicken at a dinner party. No doubt it’ll have microtransactions though.

PS VR got a big mention at this years show, with several games announced, including Skyrim, a game that simply won’t die; Star Child, a sci-fi sidescroller; The Inpatient, a prequel to Until Dawn set in an asylum; Monster of the Deep, a Final Fantasy 15 fishing VR experience; Bravo Team, a co-op shooter by the developers of Until Dawn and Moss, a puzzle adventure game akin to Zelda.

My Thoughts: Seems VR is slowly becoming a valid gaming platform and not just a tech gimmick for people who wear trousers a little too tight for their own good. Skyrim, The Inpatient, Bravo Team and Moss all look great and really show VR’s strengths.

Announced earlier in the year by Bungie, some exclusive Destiny 2 content was show. This included a strike called Lake of Shadows, a PvP map called Retribution, exclusive armour and an exclusive exotic Sniper called the Borealis.

My Thoughts: It seems these are only timed exclusives, so this isn’t that big of a deal, so fans can rest easier knowing that they’ll get this content eventually.

We ended the show with three games that were previously announced, starting with God of War. Another trailer was shown, as we see Kratos, dad and worlds angriest Bowie tribute act take his son to a new location to fight more gods it would seem. God of War launches in early 2018 on the PS4. Then, a trailer was shown for Detroit: Become Human. Showing off more of the varied choices system within the game and more story information. Closing the show was Insomniac’s Spiderman game, which we saw extended gameplay of, and a look at one of the villains in-game. Spiderman will release sometime in 2018.

My Thoughts: All three games looked incredible, and I’d say because of pure intrigue, Detroit takes my game of the conference award (a prestigious one I know) but all three of these games are must buy in my honest opinion.

Overall, Sony definitely had the strongest conference of E3 so far, but definitely not as strong as previous years.

Thoughts on Bethesda’s E3 Showcase

Bethesdaland is like Wicksteed Park

At two previous E3s, Bethesda stepped up its presence at E3 by having its own annual showcase. 2017 was no different and here is what we learnt.

Note: Expect this one to be shorter than the others as they didn’t reveal much.

Bethesda kicked off the show by announcing that two of their biggest titles, Fallout 4 and Doom will be playable in VR. Titled Fallout 4 VR (obviously) and Doom VFR respectively, both titles will launch later this year on HTC Vive exclusively.

My Thoughts: If you could afford the HTC Vive without selling your entire collection of technology and your soul, this would’ve been a huge deal. It’s a massive step for VR, whose lack of ‘Real games’ has been one of its biggest criticisms. So, if you have HTC Vive, enjoy two great games for it.

After being seen in the trailer for the system back in October, we also got a trailer for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the Nintendo Switch. We saw that it was amiibo compatible and you can get the Master Sword, Links Blue Tunic and the Hylian Shield in Skyrim. Unfortunately we didn’t get a release date but they did say everything we saw would be out in 2017, so expect it this year at some point. Elder Scrolls Legends, Bethesda’s mobile card game also had some new content announced in the form of a brand new expansion titles ‘Heroes of Skyrim’ releasing later this month. Speaking of Elder Scrolls, we also got a trailer for the recently released Morrowind Expansion for Elder Scrolls Online. Quake Champions was also shown, with a hype trailer and a $1 million prize pool E-Sports tournament later this year at Quake Con. Wolfenstein protagonist BJ Blazkowicz was revealed to be a playable character within the game.

My Thoughts: Skyrim for Switch looks awesome, playing one of my favourite games will on the move is going to be great. If you like the Elder Scrolls Legends, the new stuff is cool. For me however, I’m not invested in this news at all. And the Elder Scrolls Online stuff was for promotion purposes only. As for Quake Champions, I don’t play PC games so have no thoughts.

Bethesda also unveiled a sort of paid mods system called ‘Creation Club’ for Fallout 4 and Skyrim where players buy credits from either Xbox Live, Playstation Network or Steam and exchange these credits for original content that won’t affect achievements, like current mods do. Bethesda mentioned in a FAQ on their website, that this is separate to Mods currently on both games and will continue to be so.

My Thoughts: I’m not sure about this, paid mods weren’t a great idea initially. and this just seems that but tied up in a nice bow and gift wrapped. However, if this stays separate to free mods, I don’t see this being an issue.

Also, revealed at the show was Arkane studio’s Dishonored Death of the Outsider, a standalone expansion, where you see Daud(the assassin who murdered the Empress in the first game) and ex-second in command Billie Kurk as you have to eliminate The Outsider. The game will release on September 15th for Xbox One, PS4 and PC and will cost $30.

My Thoughts: Dishonored 1 and 2 are both good games, so it’s a reasonable assumption that this will also be at least good, significantly shorter, but still good.

Bethesda closed the show with two major announcements in the form of The Evil Within 2, an action horror game made by Tango Gameworks, led by Resident Evil  creator Shinji Mikami. They gave the game a lengthy reveal trailer which pushed the horror vibes the developers were surely going for. The game is set to be released on Friday 13th October later this year on Xbox One, PS4 and PC. Closing the show, MachineGames latest creation Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. Set in 1960s America, protagonist and real American BJ Blazkowicz returns and joins up with a resistance group attempting to take America back from the Nazis (*insert Trump Joke here*). The game is set to release on October 27th for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.

My Thoughts: Both games had a great showing at this conference, and both follow on from great games, so I hope they live up to expectations and will definitely be getting both come October.

All in all, I feel Bethesda’s showcase was an average showing. The two games at the end made it worth the watch and I hope both games deliver.