Expectations of Cloud/Always-on Games in 2013

Intro

By now you're probably more than aware of SimCity's launch as an always-on gaming experience and how that's not going so well. This event, and others like Diablo 3, got me thinking about what my expectations for a game that requires a constant internet connection and/or relies on cloud computing to deliver the product. I will be referring to this feature as "cloud support". Here are my expectations for games launching in 2013:

Seamless Integration

Besides being told through marketing and "back-of-box" info, I shouldn't have to be concerned with how or in what capacity cloud support is required. It should just work and do its intended job. In essence, I shouldn't even know it's there. Excluding certain instances, I shouldn't need to know what server I play on or what my friends play on. I shouldn't be required to choose servers to save games or use features. Authentication should be completely separate from core processes and not be tied to any gameplay or tutorials.

Customer-Focused Fail States

If in the event that the cloud support is unable to do its intended purpose, which will happen, it should fail gracefully. Statuses of the current load, estimated restore time, and error/issue messages should be available to customers in customer friendly language. No "Busy", "Waiting", "Error 47", or "Try again later". It should be clear what's wrong, How long the expected issue will be around and when I can expect it to resume service.

Offline Capable

Any features that do not require cloud support or do not greatly benefit from cloud support should include an offline capable version. Any information that is sent asynchronously should be saved locally and resent without user intervention or knowledge in the event of an issue. Save games should never be saved exclusively on the server, and if save games are saved using cloud support, there should be an encrypted local back up copy that is referenced when cloud support is restored. Game progress should never be lost to server instability, especially when the game is single-player by nature.

Cross Compatibility

The benefit of cloud support is that I can access my games on other platforms and retrieve my save games or last played checkpoints instantly. These actions along with social features, profiles, friends lists, leader-boards and more should be accessible not only from the current platform but by other devices. I should be able to see what my friends are playing on my phone, check the leader-boards on my tablet, and resume play on a separate platform OS if the game is also supported on that platform.

Final Thoughts

These are just the few expectations I have for cloud support in 2013 and beyond. I'm sure I'll add to this list as I reflect about the current state of games that include this feature. What about your expectations?

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Minecraft

I love it so much. I can't get enough and I'm super excited for the new update to come out... I also hear there is a PC Gamer article in the works that Notch, the dev, recently sent them information for.  Building and building and breaking and crafting... such a simple premise sure is addictive. 

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StarCraft 2 is magical.

I wasn't even sure I was going to purchase StarCraft 2. I hadn't really given it much thought until I watched the unboxing and Brad running around all childlike with the box. After watching a few more videos about it - I went and bought it and boy, I'm not disappointed. So I can now say that it is an excellent game and I love playing it. I'm actually kind of addicted. I watch replays all the time from HD StarCraft, Husky, Psy, Day9, and more...  I've been watching not only the tutorial videos or tricks - but all the tournaments. It's like watching a sporting event with all that's going on sometimes.   
 
Seriously...  it's such a great game. I've played plenty of multiplayer and it's just as awesome as the single player campaign ( though I haven't gotten very far in single only because multi is so fun!)   So good... I'll probably play this game a for a long while... 
 
anyone else think they're going to need StarCraft 2 Anonymous? 

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Brad Nicholson is unprofessional

Over the last few weeks that Brad N. has been added to the news team, news has been inconsistent, poorly researched, half assed and often many days behind other news sources.   My understanding for why Giant Bomb added Nicholson was so that on days when the team is busy there can be some news articles posted on the homepage. Unfortunately, it seems Nicholson is allowed to post these articles without any review or quality control.

Stating that Nicholson is unprofessional without proper evidence wouldn’t be helpful, so I’d like to give a couple examples:

Starting off the article he admits that he isn’t really a TF2 player and that he isn’t really following the latest updates. That would be fine if that was just his opinion in the comments, but he’s supposed to be writing up what’s going on with the game.

Most of the article was filled with misinformation. His “update” to the news post where he says he “…misunderstood a bit of game jargon” is still not informative beyond that he doesn’t follow the game enough to understand the article he read to post the news story in the first place.

Besides the early and final banter in the article, most of the content that pertains to the news article was copy/pasted from Kotaku. I understand that many pieces of the news piece were quotes, which need to be the same, but there wasn’t any additional information that I couldn’t learn from the Kotaku article. 

These examples are more of the norm with how Nicholson posts, then the odd ones out.  Many of the articles he posts include links to where he got his information – Kotaku, Joystiq, and others. While this is fine and I’m glad he could point to his sources, I’d rather just go there and read it myself, which is something I often do.

The reason I wanted to point these out is that I’d rather have no news, and only hear from the Giant Bomb team when they have something interesting to say, then this style of news. I think many would agree that the reason you come to Giant Bomb is not for gaming news per se, but to hear the opinion of Jeff, Brad S. Ryan or Vinny… and get their take on what’s going on in the gaming world. With news that’s being added by another party – you lose that aspect of what made the news they did post, so great.

I’m not really interested in hearing about a new rock band drum set being announced, I already know that’s coming because I read it elsewhere – I want to hear what Ryan or Jeff think about it. That’s what makes Giant Bomb so great – the site is personality driven. 

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ESPN on Xbox 360 (only if your internet provider agrees)

Let me tell you, I'm not a super huge sports fan. I only watch occasional sports and "big" games... So it seems unusual that I would be into having ESPN on my Xbox 360.  I stopped getting cable TV in January and haven't looked back. The reason I was so excited about hearing ESPN was coming was it started to look like bigger media was seeing the power of reaching audiences outside of cable.   Hearing that ESPN was coming meant that you wouldn't need a cable subscription to enjoy sports programing (not all of it, I'm sure).  
 
Then I read something that really pissed me off. You can only get ESPN on 360 if your cable provider is on the list of approved providers. Say what? The whole point of the internet is that you don't need to be in a specific location, region or anything - it's world wide and lets you get anything. So upon reading the approved list - guess what? My internet provider isn't on it. I can't get it because my provider doesn't feel the need to pay for it. 
 
This is complete. utter. bullshit.  
 
If you want money for ESPN - Get Microsoft to pay for it. You have to be a gold subscriber anyway. Or how about charge me... I'll pay. Don't make it up to someone ELSE to pay for me.  Here I am, willing to pay for it, and i can't get it. Not because they can't deliver it to me - I have internet and an Xbox 360, but because they won't let me see it because of my internet provider - which I can't change. 
 
Anyone else on the "black" list and unable to get this service?  This pisses me off so much - It wouldn't be that big of a deal if you could easily change to another internet provider - but you can't - because of the stupid laws that let different companies control who provides internet. This is mostly a US problem, but where does it end? 

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oh Mario...

Boss: “We need people to be able to save, but only temporarily, unless they beat stuff.”

Employee: “So, like a save file that really doesn’t save?”

Boss: “Yes! and if you continue from that save it deletes it and then they lose progress unless they temporarily save again. That’ll teach them to quit before castles.”

One of the first strange things I encountered while playing, *deep breath*, new super mario Bros. Wii (from this point forward I will refer to it as SMBW) is the saving. Most games that I’m familiar with have a function in which you save things to come back to. We’ve pretty much come to a standard way of doing this in 2009. In SMBW, it seems they created a new type of save game feature, a temporary save. What is the benefit of a temp save? you got me. I had to look up how to save in the game – which I would think at this point I would know pretty well how to save a game.

When you’re on the map screen, you hit the “+” button to bring up the main menu (the one in the photo above). You’re presented with a few options, one of which is “quick save”. If you click “quick save”, it lets you know that you can only use this save once when you continue and then after that it’s no more. OK. If you click “Title Screen” – it takes you to the title, except it tells you that you will lose any unsaved progress. Great. So where is the real save!?

The only way to “real” save is beat either a mini-castle (fortress) or main castle in the game. Afterward, when you exit the castle, the game will ask you to save. Why in the world did they not just let you save on the map? if you click “quick save” and then come back and continue and then hit “title Screen” – you lose anything you didn’t do unless you recently beat one of the castles. Unless of course you picked “quick save” in which it will take you to the title screen anyway. So wouldn’t you always do quick save then if you don’t want to lose what you already did?

I’ve never seen a game make saving quite so confusing and unusual. The fact that they have you save, which can only be used once, yet have a “real save” if you beat something just seems… dumb. Let me save anywhere and I will come back and play. Oh Nintendo… You’re always trying to be different.

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Quests

Giant Bomb's new quest system is awesome and horrible at the same time. I want to go do other things... but i can't. I must continue on - finding new pages, writing silly blogs and making long lists... for what? Points? that mean nothing? Are we as humans so easily manipulated? I guess so... back to questing.

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It stopped me from buying one...

I had not purchased a Wii yet (I own a high-end PC and Xbox 360 already) and was seriously considering one, but after that horrible E3 press conference, Cammie Dunaway's nausea-inducing smile/speech, and the total lack of anything that you need even the slightest of skill to play (is Wii Music even a game? no, it's not) I said forget it.   Maybe if they were showing some more cool games, even from third party vendors it would have helped keep me interested. Oh well, they don't need me, they need my grandma, right?

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Can't tear away from it.

Well, it's been a little over a week since Giant Bomb debuted their new site and I have to say that I've had a hard time not coming and adding or editing content or blogging or posting. Well done site creators - you've made a place that's a lot of fun to come and talk all about games in all different ways. I've updated quite a few things so far...

now that they're approved you could check out:

Space Quest IV or Trism

I've uploaded a whole bunch of Fire Pro-Wrestling Returns screenshots since it was mentioned that the game page was a little bare. I'll also try and add games or images to iPhone games since I'm into the iPhone as a platform. Good stuff. though for some reason it doesn't show up if you want to link to the iPhone as a platform, weird. Maybe it's a bug... I'm also hoping my large article on The Sims 3 goes through which I really can't wait to play... That's all for now!
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It's like hanging out with old friends

I can't tell you how excited and happy I am to be joining and participating with this site, mostly because of who runs it. Jeff Gerstmann and the gang were really the reason that I became a Gamespot total access member in the first place and when they left, it just wasn't the same. Now, though, I can enjoy all of Jeff's wacky humor, Brad's deep voiced reviews, Ryan's hi jinx and the rest of the crew be the awesome game fact spewing folks we all know and love. All I can say is, Woot!

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